16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1942.
War-time (Company) Tax AssessmentBill 1942.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Stoppage at Bulli Colliery.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the colliery of Australian Iron and Steel Limited at Bulli has been idle since the 23rd September on account of a claim by the men that, for health reasons, a different system of working should be instituted? Have the men stated their preparedness to give, in the presence of the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, and other representative persons, a demonstration in order to prove that dust conditions are abnormal in the mine? Is there a tendency to the contraction of pneumonoconiosis by miners? Have many of the miners in the district died from that complaint, and are many others to-day receiving compensation on its account? Can the Minister state what action he proposes to take in order that the men may resume work, and give a demonstration in the presence of persons who are capable of making an adjudication in regard to the conditions?
– I understand that the facts are as stated. I propose to take the matter up with the Minister for Minesin Now South Wales, with a view to a test being made at an early date in order that a settlement of the dispute may be effected as soon as possible.
Canberra Conditions - Review of State Arrangements
– In view of the fact that Canberra is an inland city of no strategic importance, that the Japanese fleet recently suffered heavy casualties in respect of its aircraft carriers, and that a distinguished member of this House last night met with a severe acident, will the Prime Minister use his persuasive powers with the Minister for the Interior with a view to the modification of the ridiculous system of black-out or brownout that operates in this city?
– I do not propose to offer any reply to that part of the honorable gentleman’s question in which he has described the strategic importance of Canberra as he views it. That is a matter upon which more competent authorities than I may take whatever action they may deem proper. This is the capital city of Australia, and it is very important that there shall not be any external cause for the dislocation of its routine. I deeply regret that any member of this Parliament should have suffered a mishap from any cause. In regard to the brown-out, I have asked the Department of Home Security, whose judgment in the matter is formed for it by the Chiefs of Staff, to report to me what is the precise advice of the military authorities. When I receive that, whatever it may be, it shall be given effect.
– The Minister for Home Security, in reply to a question some time ago, indicated that a review of the blackout conditions had been made recently at therequest of the State Premiers, and that, as they had made no further request, no further review had been made. Does the Prime Minister consider it appropriate that a review of those blackout conditions shouldbe made only at the request of the State Premiers, and that a lead should notbe given by the Commonwealth? Is it appropriate that the black-out conditions should operate in the same degree in all capital cities, regardless of the degree ofrisk?
– The black-out does not operate to the same degree in all cities. The degree was varied as the result of recommendations made by the chiefs of staff.
– It is blacker in Melbourne than it is anywhere else.
Mr.Fadden. - That answers the honorable member’s question.
– Yes, the honorable member said that it was blacker in Melbourne than anywhere else. I am giving to him the answers that I know have been given by the department and the chiefs of staff. It is incorrect that the State Premiers alone ask for the review. Review occurs regularly, and is usually made after a general appreciation of the strategical position has been made by the combined chiefs of staff. A review of the general strategic position of Australia and this part of the world is nearing completion, and, when I receive the report, I shall ask for a specific review of the black-out arrangements.
– Will the Minister for Munitions take action to prevent the continuance of absenteeism in munitions establishments, by either the appointment of a judicial commissioner or the establishment of a court on a basis parallel to the British system, which deals with absenteeism by the imposition of fines and other punishments?
– The Department of Munitions is securing a report in regard to absenteeism. Immediately it is received, I shall confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service as to what are the best means of checking the unfortunate condition of absenteeism in our munitions establishments.
– Can the Prime Minister assure me that a question, of which I was asked yesterday to give notice, relative to instructions given by the Minister for Labour and National Service to his officers that they shall become unionists, will be answered before the rising of the House?
-I sincerely hope so. As a reason for some delay, I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the fact that I was engaged in this House until a very early hour this morning, and immediately upon resuming my duties at a later hour I was engaged at a meeting of the AdvisoryWar Council.
Report of Special Committee
-Will the Prime Minister state when the report of the Committee on Repatriation will be tabled for the consideration of honorable members?,
– I am not able to state precisely when the report willbe tabled. Certain surveys of it are being made by the Department of Repatriation, aswell as by the Treasurer and myself, in order that we may know the exact result of giving effect to all or a part of the recommendations.
– It will be tabled ultimately?
– As soon as possible.
– During the recent budget debate, I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the inequity of the application of the increase of the excise on tobacco and beer in canteens used by members of the Australian Imperial Force and Militia Forces. I pointed out the disadvantage of our soldiers compared with those of our allies who are serving in this theatre of war. The right honorable gentleman assured me that he would personally look into the matter. Has he yet had an opportunity to do so? If so, will he be able to advise me of his decision before the rising of the House?
– I shall endeavour to do so, but I have not been able to make a decision on the matter yet. I understand that, during the discussion, the honorable member advanced the opinion which he has now set forth, but other honorable members limited the proposal to the latest increase of excise. I am having both suggestions examined.
Avoidanceof Late Sittings
– In view of the number of all-night sittings held during this sessional period, and the undesirability of attempting to rush the business of Parliament in that way, will you, Mr. Speaker, call a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee before the House meets again to consider suggestions for the amendment of the Standing Orders with a view to preventing such occurrences in the future? Will you afford honorable members an opportunity to submit suggestions for the amendment of the Standing Orders?
– A meeting of the Standing Orders Committee has already been called for the forthcoming recess, and I am sure that members of the committee will be very pleased to consider any suggestions which honorable members may put forward. Suggestions may be sent to me as chairman of the committee.
– In view of the increasing pressure of Commonwealth taxation, will the Prime Minister consider granting a concessional deduction to taxpayers who are maintaining scholars at secondary schools or universities, particularly if those scholars are studying medicine or engineering, thus making themselves of greater value to Australia’s war effort?
Mr.CURTIN. - I have the utmost sympathy with all sections of the community who seek further taxation concessions, but I remind the honorable member that the House has just disposed of an income tax assessment bill, and the proper time for him to have made his representations was when that bill was under consideration.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is a fact that a judge in bankruptcy has committed men and women to prison for indeterminate periods for what he terms contempt, and for failing to purge that contempt? If so, does he not think that it is time that the law was amended to provide that, when a person is charged with contempt, he shall be tried before a jury, and if found guilty, be given a specific sentence?
– The power of a judge in bankruptcy to commit a bankrupt for contempt is well recognized in bankruptcy law practice, and wide discretion is allowed the judge, though there is a right of appeal in certain cases. I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Has the Minister for Social Services considered the suggestion nhat more adequate pension provision should be made for tram en who have to remain at home to look after invalid husbands? If so, when does the Minister propose to introduce amending legislation?
– If the honorable mem-ber refers to the wives of men who are drawing invalid pensions, I can inform him that Cabinet has considered their position, and will consider it again early in the new year if nothing untoward occurs in the meantime.
Banning or Sundav Afternoon Broadcast
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report which he promised to obtain from the Australian Broadcasting Commission giving the reason for the last-minute banning of an address which was to have been broadcast from Melbourne last Sun dav week by Professor Woodruff?
– The report has just been handed to me. I have made certain inquiries on my own account, and I am satisfied that the services broadcast on Sunday afternoons from Wesley Church, in Melbourne, cannot be regarded as denominational. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick -Stewart) on a previous occasion, the services have been conducted for some time to the satisfaction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which broadcasts them.
– And to the satisfaction of the public.
– That is so. At these services, something in the nature of an open forum is maintained and speakers of various types are heard upon a great variety of subjects.
– That makes the banning all the worse.
– I am making my own position clear, in case there may be some misunderstanding regarding it. The report forwarded from the acting general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) is as follows: -
The chairman has asked me to send you the following memorandum in reply to your inquiry setting out the position in relation to the talk by Professor Woodruff, which the commission refused to broadcast last Sunday : -
On the 23rd August last, the speaker. Dr. MncKcddie, in the “ Pleasant Sunday Afternoon “ service, from Wesley Church. Melbourne, calked about the use of alcohol. The talk was frankly propagandist, and entirely hostile tei the use of liquor.
On the 3rd September, the Postm&steiGeneral sent us a copy of a letter received by him from the general secretary of the United Licensed Victuallers Association. Melbourne, protesting against facilities being granted by the commission for what they referred to as “ intensive propaganda in opposition to the existence of the licensed trade “, and “for the airing of sectional views”. The Minister asked for a comment on this urotest.
On the 8th September, the Acting General Manager wrote to the Reverend Irving Benson, who arranges the talks, forwarding a copy of the complaint and inviting his comment before the uominission replied. !No reply to this letter had been received from the Beverend Irving Benson up to Friday last, the 18th instant, when the Melbourne office of the commission telephoned head office, reporting that they had now seen the script of the talk arranged for last Sunday, the 20.th instant. This talk was to he given by Professor Woodruff, under the title of “ This Liquor Tyranny “. The proposed talk whs reported its being a strongly worded anti-liquor talk.
The Melbourne office was instructed not to take Professor Woodruff’s talk. The grounds for this instruction are -
1 ) The subject of the use of alcohol and governmental control of the liquor trade is a highly controversial social and political one.
The commission does not evade the broadcasting of controversial subjects, hut its policy is that the conflicting viewpoints, and not merely one viewpoint, should be broadcast.
In this case not only did the talk in question treat one viewpoint only, and that in very hostile form, but it followed within a few weeks of another talk on the same subject, also presenting h one-sided and hostile viewpoint.
It is not without significance that the second talk was programmed by the Reverend Irving Benson whilehe was under notice that exception had been taken to the first talk, and wastherefore aware that the propriety or otherwise ofsuch talks was under consideration both by thePostmasterGeneral and the commission.
– That is unfair.It was probably decided weeks before.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that I am merely reading the report. It continues -
Effect of High Court’s Judgment
– Has the AttorneyGeneral any information on the reported judgment of the High Court delivered in Melbourne to-day, which was adverse to the Commonwealth, in connexion with the constitution of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board? Can he indicate what the result of that judgment will be on the future operations of this and similar boards, and whether the Government has any means or plans to overcome the difficulties created by the judgment?
– I heard of the judgment only a few moments before I came into the House. I think I know its broad effect, but copies of the judgment are not yet here.When they arrive,we shall see what can be done to get over the difficulties in connexion with compensation for property acquired under acquisition acts.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - On the 9th September I raised the matter of the unnecessary waste of man-power in keeping two accounts of a man’s wages paid by the Allied Works Council when that man was taken from a capital city. The Prime Minister promised to obtain a report. Has he yet done so?
– Does he expect to have it before the end of this sessional period ?
– The Allied Works Council is under the authority of the Minister for the Interior, to whose notice I brought the matters raised by the honorable member. Yesterday, I had a consultation with the Director-General of Allied Works. I hope to be able very soon to answer that question and some other questions that the honorable gentleman has asked.
– In view of certain suspicious circumstances surrounding the case of AC2 Falstein and the feeling that the members of the court martial, which tried him, might have been prejudiced against him, will the Prime Minister investigate a rumour that a person named Jim Onslow, who is presumed to be a member of the MacArthur-Onslow family, sent a telegram to Squadron LeaderRo the, a member of the court martial, when the decision in the case was announced, in the following terms: -
Congratulations. Collect Beasley, Ward. Curtin, and other hooligans and then we can win the war.
If such a telegram was sent, will he take appropriate action against Onslow?
– There is nosecrecy in the Post Office to-day.
– The telegram was genuine; do not worry about that.
– I have nothing to say about the case of AC2 Falstein. So far as I am concerned, that matter is concluded. In respect of the alleged tele gram sent by Jim Onslow, likening myself and other honorable gentlemen to hooligans, it does appear to be quite clear that if Jim Onslow exists his importance is not very great.
– Will the Minister for Transport show to the PostmasterGeneral the report of Hansard for to-day, in which will appear an accusation by an honorable member that there is nothing secret about the Post Office to-day? In view of the imputation that has been cast upon the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, will the Minister have that accusation investigated?
– If the Postmaster-General agrees . to the proposed inquiry into the leakage of information from the Post Office, will he summon the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and ascertain how he secured information from telegrams lodged at the Post Office ?
– Let the honorable member find out.
– That is what I wish to do.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– In view of the absence of the Minister for the Army, will the Prime Minister lay on the table the file with regard to the case of Mr. J. A. Mendes?
– The Minister for the Army said that he would send for the file, have a look at it, and decide whether he would lay it on the table. I propose to leave that matter in the authority of the Minister for the Army.
– According to Mansard, the Minister for the Army said that he would lay it on the table
– If Hansard says that, it will be laid on the table, after the Minister has had a chance to look at it.
– Does the Government propose to take action against the Controller of ‘Canteens, following the findings of the Canteens Inquiry Committee?
– If any disciplinary action against the Controller of Canteens be called for, it will be taken by the Department of the Army; but I do not think that the report contains any suggestion that a criminal charge should be laid against that officer. After the inquiry, the findings were considered by the Crown Law Office, and criminal proceedings have been instituted against certain other persons.
– The Government has issued an order which empowers the Minister for Munitions to take control of generating plants, and the generation of electricity in Australia. I desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Munitions to an article in The Times Trade and Engineering Journal, of July, 1942, which describes an important electrical contract let to two British firms. The turbines will be of the mipulse type and have been ordered from Messrs. Boving and Company; the alternators will be built by the British Thomson-Houston Company. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of obtaining turbo-alternators from those firms for the hydro-electric scheme on the Lachlan River at Wyangala?
– I appreciate the information that the honorable member has imparted to the House, and his suggestion will receive consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any action has been taken to expedite the settlement of claims in respect of property that has been acquired by defence units? When I asked this question a few days ago, I was informed that a committee would inquire into the matter. Many people have been considerably embarrassed by the delay that has occurred in compensating them for the compulsory acquisition of their property. They are not in a position financially to acquire other properties until the original transaction has been completed.
– A special committee which has been appointed to deal with these matters, has commenced its work and made some progress. I shall endeavour to obtain more particulars for the honorable member.
– Did the Prime Minister read in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day a statement by Mr. C. C. Crane, executive officer of the New South Wales War Agricultural Committee that the Women’s Land Army should be immediately organized on a military basis like the Australian Women’s Army Service and the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. If so, is the Prime Minister in a position to announce the attitude of the Government towards the proposal ?
– The Government has not considered the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development been directed to a report that over 100 tons of potatoes was offered for sale last Friday week on a wharf in Sydney, as being supplies which the Army had released for civil consumption? Is it a fact that when some hundreds of dealers went to the wharf, they found that the potatoes were unfit for human consumption? Regarding the control of food stocks, is the Department of the Army or the Department of Supply and Development responsible for the disposal of military stocks of food before it goes bad?
– So far as 1 can determine, the policy of the Department of the Army is to maintain supplies at certain levels in order to meet any possible emergency. I believe that after a certain period has elapsed, potatoes are “ turned over”; that is to say, they are disposed of. The Department of the Army determines the stage at which the potatoes shall be “ turned over “. The honorable member has submitted sufficient evidence to warrant the Food Council taking up the matter with the Army for the purpose of ensuring that the turnover shall be regulated in order to obviate waste, particularly as potatoes are rich in vitamin C.
– Has the Minister for Commerce seen the report in Tuesday’s issue of the Daily Mirror that an official of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, whilst admitting that od. and 6d. each were excessive prices for medium sized apples and pears, said that the matter was one for the Prices Commissioner? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to fixing the prices of fruit at a reasonable level for the consuming public?
– In view of the farreaching consequences of the decision of the High Court to-day, which invalidates certain provisions in the Apple and Pear Marketing Board Regulations, will the Minister for Commerce make a statement before the House rises regarding the Government’s plans to overcome the difficulties?
– The whole matter will be considered. I am confident that the difficulty will be overcome, and that the board will function as it has in the past.
– Yesterday the Minister for War Organization of Industry stated that the production of apples and pears exceeded requirements, and therefore his department was considering the rationalization of the industry. Will the Minister explain why, in those circumstances, apples are selling at 6d. each at the present time? Will he ensure that in the course of rationalization greater quantities of apples will be made available to consumers at reasonable prices?
– If the honorable member will read the statement which I made yesterday he will see that I did not say anything about rationalizing the apple and pear industry. However, the question relates to prices, and this subject comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs. At this season of the year, when apples have been kept in store for many months, it is obvious that prices will be higher than when the fruit can be taken direct from the orchards.
– They were never so dear as that before the board was established.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for the Army regarding the proposal to equalize the conditions of the Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces, will the Prime Minister consider the matter of the payment of members of the Australian Instructional Corps ? Some of these men are warrant, officers, and others are commissioned officers. To-day, they are obliged to pay superannuation and income tax. In the circumstances, they are being unfairly treated. They are not permitted to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force is privates.
– I shall examine the matter.
– I have received from the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The proposed plan and actions of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) with regard to the rationalization of the Australian woolgrowing industry, and the necessity for the appointment of a representative advisory committee “.
. -I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I fully realize, and so do members of the grazing industry throughout Australia, that probably no other Minister has a more difficult task than the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). His department is entirely new and has many problems to overcome. Therefore, my criticism will be constructive and designed to assist the Minister and prevent him from repeating mistakes which he has made in the past. The graziers are prepared to accept rationalization of their industry, if necessary, but they believe that the courtesy which has been given to almost every other industry in Australia should also be extended to them. Their organizations should have been consulted by the department when it was preparing plans for rationalization. This issue is of considerable importance. The industries concerned are major primary industries, and I, as a representative of a rural constituency, have a dutyto bring this matter before the
Parliament and the people. In order to show how the wool-growing industry has developed, I refer to the fact that there were 73,061,000 sheep in Australia in 1899, and 121,363,000 in 1940. The gross value of the wool produced in1899 was £13,500,000, from807,031 bales, and the gross value in 1940-41 was £60,937,000, from 3,500,000 bales. Any proposals to rationalize this important industry must be submitted to the closest examination. In a statement to the House on the 29th April last with regard to the Department of War Organization of Industry, the Minister said that at the special request of the Central Wool Committee and the Australian Meat Board it was intended to evolve nationalization plans for the pastoral industry in all its aspects, right to the killing and processing of meat and the transport of wool to the spinning factory or the docks. I draw attention to the functions of the Central Wool Committee. It was established to appraise the Australian wool clip and to make arrangements for its storage, handling and shipment on behalf of the British Government which had purchased the clip. It is not concerned in any way with the production of wool. It is purely a marketing body, and is composed of a Supreme Court judge, an executive officer, three representatives of wool growers., three representatives of brokers, a representative of wool-buyers and a representative of the manufacturers.
– The Government which the honorable member supported established it.
– I make no objection to the committee; but I say that its activities should be confined to the work for which it was established. It should not be expected to solve all the problems of the wool industry. On the 3rd September, nearly four months after the Minister had made the statement to which I referred, the press published an announcement by the Minister to the effect that the Government had adopted far-reaching proposals to rationalize the wool industry. These included measures to conserve labour and transport, and also proposals that growers should voluntarily reduce their flocks. Only in cases of a refusal to reduce flocks voluntarily would the Government take other action.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd September, the Minister used these words -
Only in the event of voluntary cooperation failing would the Government contemplate other measures to achieve these objectives.
The industry at once saw a grave threat in this announcement, which came as a complete surprise, because the Minister had more than once made it clear that, when rationalization of any industry was proposed, both employers and employees would be consulted. There had been no consultation with the wool-growers’ organizations. Apparently, for four months officers of the Minister’s department had been .planning the future of two great industries without even consulting representatives of the organizations in those industries. This contrasts strangely with the treatment accorded to trade unions. I have often heard Ministers state in this House that various gentlemen who are connected with the trade unions must be consulted in these matters. That courtesy should have been extended to the wool-growing industry. According to the newspapers of the Sth September, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said -
Any interests which can tell the Government how to do better than the rationalization scheme proposed are invited to put forward suggestions, which will receive the fullest consideration.
This was a very belated invitation, and I believe that it was made in an endeavour to “ save face “ for the Minister for War Organization of Industry. It is too late to invite people to be present at an execution when the victim’s head has already fallen into the basket. The Minister for War Organization of Industry led the people to believe tha t the Prime Minister contemplated holding discussions with the wool-growers’ representatives when he acknowledged the offer of assistance. He said that the offer would be accepted in good time. But his excuse was very weak, because he did not wait for those discussions to take place before he announced the rationalization scheme. Both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and I criticized the Minister for failing to consult the organizations con cerned. I pointed out, in a statement to the press, that in June the Wool-growers Council had adopted a resolution asking that no decision on rationalization of the wool-growing industry should be made by the department without first collaborating with the elected representatives of the growers’ organizations. The terms of this resolution were conveyed by letter to the Prime Minister on the 10th July. The council assured the Prime Minister that it desired to assist the Government with its proposals. The Prime Minister acknowledged the letter stating that the council’s offer was appreciated, and that a further communication would be sent to it on the subject as soon as possible. No further communication was received by the council. Its next information was obtained on the 3rd September from statements published in the press throughout Australia. Yet, the whole subject was of vital importance to the pastoral industry.
Following criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and myself, the Minister for War Organization of Industry sought to extricate himself from the muddle by declaring that no action would be taken to implement the decision to induce wool-growers voluntarily to stabilize or reduce the size of their flocks, or to send sufficient sheep to slaughter to meet all requirements, without a full discussion with the representatives of the industry. Another surprising feature of the whole business was revealed in press reports on the 4th September. I quote the following paragraph from an article headed “ Ministers Deny Responsibility “, which was published under the date, Canberra, 3rd September, in the Adelaide Advertiser, on the 4th September: -
Protests by representatives of the grazing industry at the circumstances in which a plan for the rationalization of the industry was developed have led to an extraordinary lack of willingness on the part of members of the Government to take any responsibility for the plan.
The Minister for War Organization of Industry, whose department is nominally responsible for the plan, declined to comment. He said that the matter was the responsibility of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully).
Mr. Scully, while admitting that the grazing industry had not been consulted on the rationalization plan, said that his department was not responsible as the matter was completely within the jurisdiction of Mr. Dedman’s Department and the Commerce Department had no responsibility.
Mr. Scully added that, while not taking responsibility, he did not think that failure to consult the grazing industry was important, as the rationalization plans much more closely concerned the Central Wool Committee than individual graziers.
We do not agree with that statement. I invite honorable members to consider the amazing spectacle of two members of the Ministry each disclaiming responsibility for a published plan to rationalize a vitally important industry. Such a state of affairs is a sad commentary on Commonwealth administration. In an endeavour to get to the bottom of the business, certain questions were asked in this House. Obviously, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out at the time, this was a case of “ passing the buck “. The Minister for War Organization of Industry said that he did not believe the statement attributed to his colleague, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), whilst that honorable gentleman said that he had been incorrectly reported. “ Incorrectly reported “ seems to be a contagious disease which has spread from one Minister to another since the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) contracted it some time ago. I sincerely hope that the contagion does not spread to the members of the Opposition. Neither Minister volunteered to give to the House his version of the inter, view, details of which were published in the press in Brisbane and Adelaide.
I suggest that .behind the whole matter there is a certain amount of resentment by the Minister for Commerce because his views on the rationalization plan had been ignored. It would seem that the proposed press announcement concerning the plan was submitted to the Minister for Commerce for his approval, and that he suggested certain alterations; yet the nest thing be knew was that the statement in its original form had been published in the press. The honorable gentleman appears to have been both surprised and annoyed. This happening provides concrete evidence of a disagreement between the two Ministers. The Minister for War Organization of Industry stated, according to a press report on the 3rd September, that every effort would be made to induce graziers voluntarily to reduce the size of their flocks. A week later, the Minister for Commerce stated that the Government would not compel graziers to reduce their flocks. The honorable gentleman also said -
The belief that the Government intended to use compulsion probably arose from a statement by the Minister for War Organization of Industry that graziers would he well advised to keep down the numbers of their flocks.
The need for great numbers of sheep being made available was urgent to meet the heavy requirements of the services.
It is deplorable that a statement by a Minister one week should be contradicted by another Minister the next week. No wonder widespread confusion existed concerning what the Government’s intentions really were. It appears that the Minister for War Organization of Industry - whose knowledge of the pastoral industry is, I suggest, exceedingly limited - and his academic advisers were greatly concerned about the increase of the number of sheep in Australia in recent years) but if he and his officers had had any experience of the industry they would have known that the increase was due to several factors, each of which had resulted from the labours of those engaged in the industry. Rather than seek the advice of men who were in a position to speak with authority, the department was content to blunder along framing a scheme which to-day provides striking evidence of the ignorance of those who framed it.
There is a further serious aspect of the subject. When the Minister for War Organization of Industry was challenged in the House, he gave misleading information. ‘Subsequently the honorable gentleman was forced to admit that some of his statements were inaccurate. Why did he not make sure of his facts before explaining his actions to Parliament so positively? When I questioned him concerning the committee or persons who had been specifically requested to report on the .rationalization of the industry, the honorable gentleman replied that Professor Clunies Ross and Mr. D. A. Gill had made the investigation and had consulted representatives of the Central Wool Committee, the Australian Wool Growers Council, and the Federal
Council of the Graziers Association. The Minister has since been obliged to correct that statement. In a letter which he wrote to me on the 16th September, he stated that he should have said that “members” of those bodies had been consulted as he had discovered that although discussion took place with several members of the bodies referred to, an official approach was not made to the bodies. Later, I wrote to the Minister and also asked him in this House to furnish the names of the representatives who were consulted by Professor Clunies Eoss and Mr. Gill. His replies were curious. In his letter to me the Minister said -
Although discussions took place with several members of the bodies mentioned, as they were apparently not consulted officially as representatives of the particular body, but as persons with expert knowledge of wool industry problems, there may be some embarrassment to the individuals if specific details of the discussions were made public.
The honorable gentleman was not asked for specific details of the discussion; he was asked for the names of the people who were said to be the representatives of the industry; and he has had to admit that they were not the official representatives: His letter stated on this point -
If you so desire it, however, I have no objection to having you informed personally of the position, and I feel sure that you would recognize that, having in mind the object of the discussion, the measures taken were adequate to secure necessary information, although it might have been preferable in the circumstances also to have approached tha parties concerned officially.
We think, not merely that it would have been preferable for the honorable gentleman to have consulted the official representatives of the organizations mentioned, but that it was his bounden duty to do so. Concerning the Central Wool Committee, the Minister said -
I might add that the original request for an investigation into the wool industry came from Sir Owen Dixon, former Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, who, in a conference with a representative of my department, urged the review of all sections of the wool industry from the raising of sheep to the delivery of wool into ships. On the 9th April, a very similar request emanated from a conference with the Australian Meat Board.
In his reply to me, the Minister kindly included a copy of a letter from Mr. N”. W. Yeo, an executive member of the
Central Wool Committee to Mr. G. T. Chippendale, of the Department of War Organization of Industry, dated the 4th May, 1942, which read -
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 1st May, addressed to the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, advising arrangements made by your department for a comprehensive investigation of the’ wool industry.
It is noted that you have obtained the services of Professor Ian Clunies Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, as Adviser, and of D. A. GUI, director of the McMaster Animal Health Laboratory, Sydney, as executive officer.
The Central Wool Committee is anxious to assist in every possible way, and will at an early date suggest the names of persons suitable to act in an advisory capacity.
I have an appointment for a discussion with Mr. Gill to-morrow, the 5th instant.
I suggest that that letter indicates clearly that the approach was made by the Department of War Organization of Industry and not by the Central Wool Committee. If the Minister still persists in his statement that the approach was made by the Central Wool Committee, I ask him to make available the minutes of the meeting of the Central Wool Committee, which requested that an approach be made.
In order to ascertain the origin of the proposal for a curtailment of the wool clip, I asked the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in this House some time ago whether, in his discussions with the British Government, concerning an increase of the price of wool, there was any suggestion that steps should be taken to curtail the wool clip. The right honorable gentleman made it clear in his reply thai there had been no such suggestion. The British Government not only does not want the wool clip to be reduced, but probably desires that production be maintained at the present level. Even if wool is being accumulated in Australia at present, we must look to the future and realize that Europe and many other countries throughout the world are faced with the prospect during the post-war’ period of a shortage of wool such as the world has never previously experienced. [Extension of time granted.] I shall read an extract from a letter that I have received from a British agent stationed on the north coast of Africa. This shows the. dearth of wool in Europe at present. My correspondent states -
My main job lately has been the buying of wool - sheepskins and goatskins. The wool is unclassed and of every known quality. Tha average price for what I have bought is 2s. lOd. a lb. Of course we are buying to keep the other bloke cold in Russia.
Fritz last year was paying any price you liked for wool. 5s. and lis. a lb. for the stuff [ have described. While we have not got complete control of the Mediterranean, shipping for Fritz is difficult, so they send hundreds of tons away done up in hessian in 20-lb. packets to Switzerland by the French parcel po*t from here. .1 am glad to say this mean.5 of transit is no longer available, but they have »ot all available from French Morocco bv another route.
That shows the acute shortage of wool in Germany and other countries of Europe, which are in the bonds of Germany but are friendly to the United Nations. Any proposal to curtail wool production in Australia would be foolhardy. It would cut across the Atlantic Charter and would be un-Christianlike, as many people in Europe are shivering with cold because they have not sufficient wool.
I do not underestimate the ability of Professor ‘Clunies Ross and Mr. Gill in their particular spheres of activity. Dr. Ross is an old friend of mine. He and Mr. Gill are both eminent men in their own professions, but as you. Mr. Speaker, know, and as the Minister for War Organization of Industry will appreciate, if a large number of wethers were depastured on a paddock that grew only lucerne, the high, protein content of that food would make them sick and they would not grow fat. I contend that the protein content of the brains of Professor Clunies Ross and Mr. Gill is so high that, although they hold the most distinguished degrees, they have not matriculated in the university of experience. I suggest that a good blend would be obtained if they were associated with men of practical experience in the industry. The Australian Wool-growers Council and the Federal Council of the Graziers Association should be consulted in this matter. I am a. member of those great unions. The Australian Woolgrowers Council has a membership of about 16,000 graziers, whilst the Australian Wool Federation represents about 1S,000 members, who together own S0,000,000 sheep, or three-fourths of the whole of the flocks in Australia. It is imperative that immediate action be taken to consult those who are in a position to give the best advice to the Commonwealth Government with regard to this important industry. I suggest to the Minister that an advisory committee be appointed consisting of Professor Clunies Ross, Mr. Gill, two representatives of the wool-growers’ organizations and one representative of the Australian Workers Union. Such a. committee could advise the Minister regarding the proposed rationalization of the wool industry.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) read to this House a most interesting communication which showed clearly that the Opposition had undertaken to make a concerted attack on certain government departments, and the Department of War Organization of Industry was specifically mentioned in that document. The attack is running true to form. I am confirmed in that opinion by the lack of courtesy which lias been shown to me in that I was not informed until 1.15 p.m. to-day that this motion for the adjournment of the House was to be made. I understand that it is customary for the Government to be given notice of such a motion.
In endeavouring to dig up something on which to attack my department, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has found a “ mare’s nest “. There are no proposals in hand for the rationalization of the wool-producing industry. All of the decisions which have been taken in my department relate to the handling of wool.
– What about the salt for the sheep?
– I shall deal with that matter shortly. On the 6th April last, a representative of my department attended a conference with Sir Owen Dixon, the then chairman of the Central Wool Committee. The conference was arranged by the Department of Commerce. Sir Owen Dixon requested at the conference that my department should make a complete review of all sections of the wool industry. The executive member of the Central Wool Committee was present. All of the persons attending the conference agreed that Professor Clunies Eoss, who for three years had been the Australian representative on, and chairman of, the International Wool Secretariat, was admirably fitted lo take charge of the investigation. 1 understand also that the Wool Board, of which the honorable member for New England is a member, specifically sent Professor Clunies Boss to England to undertake an investigation on its behalf extending over a period of two years. On the 4th May, the executive member of the Central Wool Committee wrote to ray department expressing the desire of the committee to assist in every possible way, and stating that at an early date it would suggest the names of members who would act as consultants. No further advice on this point was received by me. Not unnaturally, I assumed that the members of the Central Wool Committee, with whom discussions were held subsequently were in fact the consultants referred to in the letter of the executive member.
Chat is the history of the genesis of this investigation. It will be noted that consultations on a considerable scale have taken place with the members of the Central Wool Committee. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has given the composition of that committee. It consists of a chairman, three wool-growers, three wool-selling brokers, an individual who will be actively engaged in the business of wool.buying, and a manufacturer. Four interests are represented, and they are designated a, b. c and d in the regulations. All of those interests were consulted by Professor Clunies Boss.
– But the honorable gentleman denied that in his letter.
– I denied no such thing. I said that all of those interests had been consulted. If one considers the various interests, one will note that they are the interests whom the honorable member for New England has said I should consult directly. When I want to inquire into an industry, and there is a body representative of all the interests in it, am I expected to go beyond that representative body and to consult each of the sectional interests represented thereon? Is it expected that I shall go beyond the Central Wool Committee and consult the Australian Wool-growers Council, which, I presume, is represented on the Central Wool Committee? Is it expected that I shall go to the Graziers Federal Council? And if I do, is it expected that I shall go beyond that council to each State council? Is it expected that I shall go from the Central Wool Committee to the National Council of Wool-selling Brokers, and then to each individual broker who participates in the election of representatives to that council? Just how far back is it expected that I am to go with the discussions in regard to any industry? When I have had consultations with the body that is representative of all interests, is not that all that can be expected of me? If I were to undertake discussions on that plane - if I were to go back and consult all the sectional interests in any industry - my department would never get anything done.
Let me deal with the need for rationalization in the handling of wool. An analysis of the personnel engaged in appraising, cleaning, shipping and storage indicates that quite a number of men of military age could be released. For example, 38 men in the military age groups 1, 2 and 3 are among the preliminary appraisers in the several States. They have been refused permission to enlist, even though the man-power officers have said that they ought to be given permission. They are not appraisers who need to have a great degree of skill. In Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria combined, out of 523 men employed in reclassing and repacking, 175 are between the ages of 18 and 35 inclusive. In the scouring and carbonizing section, of 1,034 hands in New South Wales, 333 are of military age; and in Victoria, of 430 hands. 166 are of military age. The figures for all the States definitely show that an inquiry into the handling of wool was needed, in order to make sure that labour was not lurking there which could he better used in some other direction in the war effort. It was in the light of these facts that Professor Clunies Boss made certain recommendations to my department. When those recommendations came before me, I consulted with the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) ; and the proposals were eventually placed’ ‘before the Production Executive of Cabinet and were approved by it. The bulk of the decisions of the Production Executive are of such a character that they are to be implemented by the Central Wool Committee itself - the committee that is representative of all the interests which the honorable member for New England has complained have never been consulted. Consequently, the very men whom the honorable member says would know whether or not the decisions are wrong or cannot be given effect because of their impracticability, will have a voice in their implementation. It was decided that the Central Wool Committee should be instructed to draw up, in consultation with the DirectorGeneral of Land Transport, a scheme which will give priority of transport to wool of the type that can be passed most expeditiously through appraisal centres to shipment or storage. What is wrong with that? If there he anything wrong with it, will not the representative of the woolgrowers on the Central Wool Committee have a voice in the matter ? The Central Wool Committee is to be asked to extend wool appraisement throughout the year, and to hold smaller and more frequent appraisements. What is wrong with that ? If there be anything wrong with it, the representative of the wool-growers on the Central Wool Committee will be able to express an opinion concerning it. The bulk of the decisions arrived at by the Production Executive, after they had been recommended by Professor Clunies Ross in the light of consultations he had had with the Central Wool Committee, will be implemented through and by that committee.
– (Why not read all the recommendations of the Production Executive ?
– It is not worth while to weary the House by doing so. The general matter was given in my statement to the press. If there be any particular aspect on which the honorable member would like me to give the decision, I shall do so.
– I should very much like to know what the decisions are. Is there anything in the remainder that the honorable gentleman does not want to disclose ?
– There .is. not.
– Then why not tell us what they are ? We shall not be wearied.
– I am dealing with the matter in my own way.
– The point is, that the honorable gentleman is not dealing with the matter.
– I said that the decision to rationalize related only to the handling of the wool. In the statement which I handed to the press there was only one reference to the numbers of sheep, and that was only an oblique reference.
– Was it?
– I have here a copy of the statement which I handed to the press. My remarks relate to it, and not to anything published in the press. The honorable member for New England said something about misreporting being an infectious disease. I say that it has become an epidemic since I took office. In the statement which I submitted to the press the only reference to the numbers of sheep was to the effect that we required sufficient mutton to reach the market to meet the requirements of the civil population and the armed services, and that we hoped that the growers would co-operate by sending that mutton forward. I added that if they did not cooperate, we would have to consider taking other steps. I adhere to that statement. When the matter was raised in this House by the honorable member for New England, I promised that I would consult further with the different organizations concerned. Accordingly, on the 19th September, I wrote to the Central Wool Committee, the Australian Wool-growers Council, the National Council of Woolselling Brokers, the Australian Wool Producers Federation, and the Associated Woollen and Worsted Manufacturers of Australia in the following terms: -
Following the announcement of certain measures which have been adopted by the Government as a means of rationalizing the wool industry, I promised in Parliament recently that before the regulations were drafted to give effect to the proposals, I would give consideration to any further representations which might be made by sections of the sheep and wool industry concerned. A copy of the statement which was issued when tha decisions were made is attached for your information.
In conformity with the promise I have made, I should be glad if you would let me have, as early as possible, any comments that you may wish to make on behalf of your committee in regard to the proposals which Lava been outlined in the statement. lt is proposed, when the final decisions have ultimately been reached, to issue an amendment to the National Security (Wool) Regulations giving the necessary additional powers to the Central Wool Committee.
This paragraph shows ‘that the decisions are to he implemented through that body -
This amendment will be made in general terms which will enable the committee to exercise reasonable discretion, while avoiding any too rigid or narrow interpretations. The reason for this method of approach is the realization that no hard and fast rule can be made to cover all cases, and that some discretion must be permitted in the application of the regulation.
It is not desired at this stage that your views should be submitted in regard to problems of wool production . . .
In view of the explanation which I have given of the origin of these discussions, of the consultations that have taken place with the interests concerned, all of which are represented on the Central Wool Committee, and of the fact that whatever decisions are arrived at will be implemented through the Central Wool Committee, there is no justification for the charge that my department has not had adequate consultation with the industry and has ignored its interests.
– J. rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister has accused me of discourtesy. Not knowing that it was necessary to give some hours’ notice of my intention, I went to him before question time to-day.
– The honorable member saw me after the House had met.
– I went to the Minister before question time and asked if the debate could be postponed until tomorrow. I also explained the matter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I leave the House to judge between us.
– I support the motion, and without repeating what the honorable member for New
England (Mr. Abbott) has said, I express my agreement with his suggestion that a committee should be appointed to examine the scheme. Such committee should be composed of men competent to say what is best for the wool industry, and whose advice and assistance could be regarded as being in the interests of the wool-growers and of the nation. I was astonished at the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) that there was no intention on the part of the Government to rationalize wool. If that be so, there has been considerable misunderstanding regarding the statement made early in September, which led to a controversy in the newspapers, and numerous protests by various organizations associated with the wool industry. Those protests came from numerous centres, and included one by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). In the Adelaide Advertiser of the Sth September, the honorable gentleman is reported as follows : -
Mr. Wilson, M.H.K., said that he was not in favour of the Government’s proposals for rationalization of the wool industry. Any suggestion to reduce flocks was sheer folly. He would oppose any unnecessary interference with this great national asset.
There must have been something to cause such statements to be made. There appears to be some attempt to “pass the buck”.
– It is a part of the epidemic of misrepresentation to which I have referred.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry tried to pass the responsibility on to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), but that gentleman would not accept it. Many phases of the wool industry call for a close investigation. I propose to offer some comments concerning the administration of the wool appraisement scheme. I am not at all satisfied with its administration, nor do I think that the Minister for Commerce himself is satisfied. I raised this matter some time ago in this House, when the right honorable member for Cowper (,Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce. I submitted to him information which I had gathered from men associated with the industry, in which they referred to the injury being fi one to the industry under the scheme. j. also brought their complaints to the notice of Sir Owen Dixon, who is now Australia’s representative at Washington, but was at that time chairman of the (Jen tral Wool Committee. Sir Owen Dixon asked to be supplied with the names of the persons responsible for the statements; but had their names been supplied, my efforts might have been frustrated, and the persons . concerned embarrassed.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the constitution of the Central Wool Committee, or does he think that it should be reviewed?
– The committee may be all right, but the administration of the scheme is not. Those who administer the scheme were previously buyers for foreign firms. They were appointed as controllers of the wool appraisement scheme.
– By whom?
– I do not know. I suppose the representatives of the woolgrowers agreed to their appointment. The system of wool appraisement worked satisfactorily during the last war, and the growers thought, no doubt, that it would work satisfactorily again. The trouble is, however, that some of the men appointed to act as appraisers have retained their association with foreign wool-buying firms. If they are not actual blood relations of the heads of those firms, they are related to them by marriage. They may be very good wool- appraisers1, but there is always the suggestion that they may he working in the interests of the firms with which they were previously associated. There are in Australia men who used to conduct their own wool stores, men with a wonderful instinctive knowledge of wool, and such men would he quite well able to appraise under the wool-purchase scheme. Knowledge such as they possess cannot be acquired ; a uran is born with it, just as others are born with an instinctive knowledge of stock. I have known men who, by merely looking at a yearling colt, or calf, could say with some degree of certainty into what kind of a sire it would develop. Such knowledge cannot be passed on, and when a man dies, it dies with him. Under the old system of wool auctions, various growers might have their wool classed by competent men so that when it reached the sale floor they were complimented by their brokers’ on its condition. Then, a man who possessed that instinctive knowledge of wool to which I have referred, would come along and buy a parcel of wool from each of those clips, take them to his own wool store, reclassify them, and make money out of selling the wool again. Such men have been deliberately overlooked under the wool-appraisement scheme, because they would be able to see how the scheme is being handled in the interests of overseas firms. I made representations to the Prime Minister on this subject, and he promised to have an investigation made. He has just informed me that he has received a report on the subject, which he will allow me to read, and I shall do so with great pleasure. There are wool-growers in Australia who have been breeding sheep along wellestablished blood lines for a great many years, and they were always able to get more than the average price for their wool under the auction system. They expected that, under the appraisement system, they would still receive more than the average price. [Extension of time granted.) Instead, however, of receiving 2d. or 2£d. per lb. above the average price, they found that they received, on an average, only about ll$d. per lb. It is my opinion that they are being exploited by some of those who retained1 their connexion with foreign firms, and who are acting in this way with an eye to the post-war position. Some men who owned wool stores of their own were making before the war incomes of £2,000 to £2,500 a year. Now, their businesses have gone, and they have been relegated to junior positions equal to those of boys with an average knowledge of wool.
.- I have listened with interest to speeches made in this House by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) during the last two years. Invariably, he maintained a high standard of debate. It was a pleasure to listen to him. He was a member of the Fadden Government. However, I arn afraid that his powers of debate are deteriorating.
He has my sympathy. His lapse may be due to the fact that he is getting on in years. On this occasion he has merely put up an Aunt Sally, his purpose being to discredit the Government. Obviously, he, and other honorable members opposite, believe that an election is in the offing. A politician has been described as one who sits on the fence but keeps his ear to the ground. That is an apt description of honorable members opposite so far as their attitude on this matter is concerned. They are seeking simply to discredit the Government by making attacks upon the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman).
The number of sheep now in Australia is between 120,000,000 and 125,000,000. Wool is our greatest industry. It brings into this country over £60,000,000 a year. That income is not sectional; it is national. Naturally, the Minister has taken prompt steps to organize the industry in order to improve our war effort. The ramifications of the industry are extensive. We are faced with the problems of transporting, cleaning, selling, storing and appraising the wool. This requires considerable organization. The Minister is organizing the industry on a war basis. In the past much of our wool has been stored in coastal centres. To-day, in view of the possibility of enemy action, we are now obliged to move it to centres as far as 200 miles inland. We do not own that wool. It belongs to Great Britain, and this Government is merely the custodian of it. Much of the organizing work associated with the industry is the responsibility of the Central Wool Committee. That is representative of all interests engaged in the industry, although, incidentally, I should like to give greater representation on it to the primary producers. Everything possible is being done to place the industry on a war footing. Great Britain has applied a policy of intensive organization to many industries. For instance, agricultural producers are told what they shall produce. If they fail to use suitable land it is taken from them. That is what might be described as intensive organization, and the Government is to apply that policy in Australia.
This motion reflects little credit upon the Opposition. However, it is in keeping with an interlude which occurred when I was speaking on the budget. After I had stated that the wool agreement, which was signed in 1939, contained a clause providing for an annual review of the price, provided either party to the agreement asked for it, the honorable member for New England interjected “Bot! We were always asking for it “. I replied -
Nobody not even the United Country party, which professes to represent the wool-growers, lifted a finger on behalf of the wool-growers until this Government came into office, and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) went to Great Britain, asked for a rise of price by 15 per cent., and got it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) then interjected, “That rise was obtained by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) “.
– He had nothing to do with it. He knew nothing about it until it was done.
– I am glad that the Attorney-General is present to give the lie direct to the statement then made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member must withdraw that expression; it is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw. The point I emphasize is that honorable members opposite are simply endeavouring to discredit the Government. They adopt the attitude that whatever the Government does is wrong; therefore, it should not do anything. In spite of that attitude on the part of honorable members opposite, the Government is determined to prosecute the war to the best of its ability; and it has already shown itself to be better equipped for that purpose than was any of its predecessors.
– I regret the statement by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) that this motion has been submitted merely for political reasons. That charge no longer impresses. No reason would have existed for a motion of this kind, but for the statement made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and reported in the press on the 3rd September. The Minister says that he does not take much notice of reports appearing in the Melbourne Herald. I remind him that identical reports appeared in every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth. Surely, the Minister does not say that every newspaper in this country would misrepresent him in such a matter. We can only conclude that that report was .based on a typed statement distributed on behalf of the Minister to the press. I take the following extracts from the report which was published in the West Australian, on the 3rd- September last, and was identical, word for word, with the report in every other daily newspaper : -
Far-reaching recommendations designed to rationalize the wool industry have been adopted by the Federal Government. These include measures to conserve labour and transport as a substantial contribution to war needs, and also proposals that wool-growers should voluntarily reduce their flocks, both in their own interests and those of the nation.
After pointing out that grave concern had been expressed at the tendency for sheep numbers and the wool clip to increase from year to year in excess of the quantities required under war conditions, Mr. Dedman said the Government confidently expected wool-growers would co-operate to stabilize sheep numbers and the wool clip, so as to supply home and export needs for lamb and mutton. Only in the event of voluntary co-operation failing would the Government contemplate other measures to achieve these objectives, he added.
Three days later, on the 8th September, the Minister published a correction in the Brisbane Courier-Mail. It is most unfair of him to say that the Canberra representatives of all the metropolitan newspapers misreported him. Every newspaper contained exactly the same statement. Its publication caused alarm in the pastoral industry throughout Australia. Most honorable members received telegrams of protest. I received many telegrams from Western Australia, and I had to refer to the newspapers to find out what he had said.
– Does he deny having made the statement?
– Yes. He said that he was not responsible for what the Argus had reported him as saying, but that newspaper’s report was repeated in every other newspaper. The honorable member for New England and I lodged our protests with the Minister. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who was in Adelaide and read the statement in the Adelaide press, also protested. I am pleased that the Minister does not intend to rationalize the pastoral industry, and that he has now departed from the policy which he, undoubtedly, announced. No industry in Australia produces, with so little manpower, such enormous wealth or such important products as do the wool and meat industries. God only knows that the pastoral industry suffers enough hardship from drought, disease and floods, without having to suffer the final hardship of political interference. This is the only primary industry which has been able to survive without propping from, the Government. I hope that this time the Minister will stand by what he says and refrain from attempting to, apply to the pastoral industry methods which may bc all right when applied to backyard industries. The Government will experience enough trouble in the next two or three months in trying to organize the slaughtering of the mutton and lamb that will soon be coming on to the market. The Minister’s- advisers would be well employed in trying to devise means to ensure the availability of sufficient men to enable the slaughtering to be done in order that Britain’s requirements of lamb and mutton may be met.
. -I am glad that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and his tory colleagues have raised this matter, because it provides me with the opportunity to contrast the raw deal that the primary industries had at the hands of the Government which they supported against the improved conditions that they have obtained since the Labour party took office. They sat dumb in their places when the Menzies Government sold to Great Britain the whole Australian wool clip at an average price of 10d. per lb. in Australian currency, which is far below the cost of production, and thereafter they made no effort to induce that Government to take advantage of the provision for an annual review of the price. It required the advent to power of this party for the pleas of the wool-growers for a better return to be answered. Opposition was shown by people who were supposed to represent. the Australian wool-growers to any increase of the contract price arranged between the governments of Australia and Great Britain, and it was only by the efforts of this Government, aided by the Attorney-General in London, that the increase was obtained. For many years now the Australian wool business has been a racket. This great commodity has been put up for sale here and disposed of at low rates to buyers from other countries who came to Australia, supposedly, to bid for it against each other. In respect of the sale of other primary commodities grown in Australia, we have had to go outside our own country for markets, and have sometimes had to sell at a loss, and give subsidies to the farmers to enable them to stay on the land. Our wool was sold here below the cost of production in 1939. Honorable members opposite are trying by means of this motion to make out that they are the only friends of the wool-growers, and to twist statements made by the Minister for “War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in order to persuade the public that the Government and its supporters are seeking to destroy the wool industry. The movement for the curtailment of flocks is very necessary. The farmers themselves are asking for it, and are pleased that the Government proposes to set up dehydration plants in various parts of the Commonwealth to get rid of the surplus sheep. I and others on the land are worried because we are short of superphosphates. That fact curtails production. Large numbers of lambs were previously sent overseas, but that trade is now cut out. Curtailment of flocks is necessary, which is what the Minister was referring to. The attempt by honorable members opposite to make out that the Minister is acting detrimentally to the great wool industry will deceive no one. In the short ten months that we have been in power we have done greater service to the farmers and graziers than the so-called Country party, and the governments that it has supported, have done in fifteen years. They should have thought twice before moving the adjournment of the House to discuss the wool industry. One of their governments sold the Aus tralian Commonwealth Shipping Line which was bringing about a reduction of overseas freights on primary produce, including wool. The ships were really given away, because so far Australia has not been paid for them. Another government of the same type, by limiting the powers of the Commonwealth Bank, prevented money from being available to the grazing industry when it sorely needed help. It is a great disgrace that our wool should have been sold for so many years below the cost of production. It was noticeable that, when wool was sold at as low as lOd. per lb., no reduction of the price of cloth was made in favour of the user. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is four years late in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this subject. However, if he has done nothing else, he has done a service by showing the public that members of the Opposition have been making statements in the press which are not true, trying to persuade the farmers that our actions have been detrimental to the wool industry. I am glad, of the opportunity which has been given to the Minister and others on this side to refute and debunk the claim of the Opposition to be the true protectors of that industry.
.- It is useless for honorable members opposite to assert that the representatives of the wool and wheat industries on this side of the House take no interest in them. Their claim that the present Government has done more for those industries than we have is easily disproved. In 1939, when the war began, our wool prices went down to lOd. per lb., as in 1914. We put forward the needs of both industries all through the years from 1930 to 1939, and beat the Government of the day on the question pf wheat. The Government led by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) took over the wheat in 1939 and sold it, in spite of the low prices prevailing in the world’s market, for a realized price of 3s. 6id. a bushel. By contrast, the average which will be paid by the present Government under the so-called stabilization scheme will not yield 3s. a bushel to all the wheat-growers throughout Australia. Only men growing a few hundred bushels will get so high a return as 3s. 6£d.
Australia is the greatest woolproducing country in the world, and its wool industry is something well worth fighting for. In the last war, our wool production averaged a return of £60,000,000 a year to the grower. At that time, we were producing only about 2,000,000 bales per annum. We are now producing over 3,000,000 bales. When the Central Wool Committee took over the wool clip in 1916, it commenced a huge operation. It handled over 7,000,000 bales of wool between the 21st November, 1936, and the 30th June, 1920. It sold that, wool to the British Government at ls. 3£d. per lb., under an agreement made between the then Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) and Lord Milner. The fixed price of ls. 3-Jd. per lb. was 55 per cent, above the rate ruling at the 1933-14 wool sales. When the term of the Central Wool Committee expired on the 30th June, 1920, it had sold over 4,000,000 bales of wool, and Australia had received an extra £6,000,000, representing 55 per cent, of the profits, The balance of wool remaining in London was taken over by Bawra, and sold at prices which eventually realized, for tha Australian growers, ls. 9½d. per lb. all round, or 6d. better than the appraised price. Another 6d. per lb. went to the British Government. Australia reaped a return of £39,000,000 out of the profits, whilst Great Britain took £36,000,000, That was the outcome of the last wool realization scheme introduced during the 1914-1S war. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has now asked for some alterations to be made in regard to the proposed rationalization of the wool industry. I stand behind him in that. In spite of what the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) said, there is no man in Australia who has a greater knowledge of the wool industry, or has done more for it here, than the honorable member for New England. His name is known all over the world as a man of high standing in the industry. We accept his word as authoritative. It would have been better if all Australian governments had taken into their confidence members representing different industries with which it w,as proposed to deal. The Minister for War Organization of In- dustry has been dabbling in rationalizing this and that. He thought he would rationalize something else, but when he found that he had made a mistake, he dropped it like a hot potato, explaining that he did not want or intend to do it. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) nailed down some of the Minister’s statements, and all that the Minister could do was smile. The Minister should be more sincere in these matters. The wool industry demands the best possible attention, and any one who meddles or muddles should be replaced. If a Minister attempts to introduce an unfair policy, he should not be tolerated. To-day, the industry is desperately in need of man-power. It has only a skeleton staff. When shearers are required, they are allotted by officials - the Deputy Director of Man Power in Adelaide, for instance - who have no knowledge of the requirements of the industry. Recently, I received a petition from fourteen farmers in my electorate. They .desired to obtain the services of shearers to handle 6,700 sheep. Two brothers, who early this year had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, were anxious to do the work, and as no other men were available application was made for their temporary release from the Army. Two men, each of whom shears an average of 100 sheep a day, would require 33 days in which to handle 6,700. An average of 100 sheep a day would be a splendid achievement. Because of wet weather, it is possible that the men would not be able to work more than three days a week. But the man-power authorities, who think that they know so much about the wool industry, wrote the following letter to me: -
Re Pte. K. C. Kerley, G. D. D., Wayville, SX17977 and Pte. H. R. Kerley, 1st Aust. Div. Mobile Laundry.
In reply to your letter of the 13th instant, you are informed that the Deputy DirectorGeneral recommended that three weeks leave be granted Pte. K. C. Kerley. Regarding Pte. H. R. Kerley leave could not be recommended as hig unit was out of this State.
Private H. R. Kerley, I ascertained, could not be released for this essential” work because he was attached to a mobile laundry unit. His brother was expected to shear 6,745 sheep in three weeks. Obviously, that was ridiculous. It betrayed an utter lack of even elementary knowledge of the industry. Yet that is typical of the blunders of the staff of the Department of W;ar Organization of Industry, and the Department of Labour and National Service. I support the attempt of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to replace these inefficient men with others who have a thorough knowledge of the industry.
.- The principal complaint of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has introduced a scheme to rationalize the pastoral industry, but the graziers’ interests have not been consulted in the matter. In my opinion, the Minister dealt most effectively with the submissions of the honorable member. One of the objects of rationalizing the pastoral industry is to save the unnecessary use of railway rolling-stock in the transport of wool. It should not be necessary for me to emphasize the urgent need for making the best possible use of transport facilities within Australia. So great are the demands that our railways cannot cope with the business. The proposal of the Minister will result in a. considerable saving of rolling-stock, and in that way the national interests will be served.
Another proposal of the Government concerns the storage of wool. The Government of the United Kingdom is buying the Australian wool clip from the Commonwealth Government. The procedure is that the Commonwealthacquires the whole of the Australian clip, and sells it to the British Government at an agreed price. But the British Government ships only such wool as it requires for immediate use ; the remainder is stored in Australia. The Commonwealth Government proposes that wool required for immediate shipment shall be carried to the ports, but that other types of wool, which will not be required for some time, shall be stored at country centres in order to save the unnecessary use of rolling-stock. The wisdom of the scheme must appeal to honorable members, and I compliment the Government upon having evolved it.
The Minister also considers that action must be taken in order to obtain adequate supplies of mutton for dehydration and canning purposes. The Go vern.ment has to provide substantial quantities of canned and dehydrated meat to meet the requirements of our fighting forces in New Guinea and elsewhere. Because of lack of supplies, some dehydration plants have not been operating at full capacity. The Government intends to establish additional units throughout Australia, and must take steps to ensure continuity and adequacy of supplies. The increased price which the Government has obtained for wool has been instrumental in some measure in inducing graziers to hold their stock instead of sending it to dehydration and canning plants as they would normally do.
In view of the reply given by the Minister, it appears that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has been flogging a dead horse. There can be no complaint about what has been done by the Government. The Minister read to honorable members a copy of a letter which bad been sent out to various pastoral organizations, inviting them to send representatives to confer with the Minister, or to forward such information as they thought should be brought nuclei’ the notice of the Government. Before taking any action to rationalize this industry, the Minister sought the co-operation and assistance of those engaged in it. That is a practice that has been followed in connexion with every industry. I assure honorable members that it is not a happy or pleasant job to interfere with any industry, but there are times when such action is essential in order to make sufficient manpower available for the defence of this country, for “the production of arms and munitions, and for the provision of adequate supplies of foodstuffs. It is the Minister’s responsibility to do the job, whether it be pleasant or not. A Minister for War Organization of Industry was appointed by the Menzies Government, and on two or three occasions in this House I asked him questions relating to his activities. I was informed that the Minister had not found out precisely what the functions of his department were, but that at a later stage he hoped to have some information in that regard. Although that honorable member held office for a considerable time, no action in the direction of rationalizing industry was taken, and the job remained’ to ‘be tackled by this Government. 1 contend that the present Minister for War Organization of Industry has carried out Iris work to the satisfaction of a great number of people in the community. No doubt, his actions have caused displeasure in certain quarters, but in performing a task which must necessarily interfere with certain privileges enjoyed by established interests-, a certain amount of displeasure cannot be avoided. I repeat that the Government has always applied the policy of consulting whatever interests are concerned in any action that it proposes to take. Particularly has this been the case in regard to primary industries. The sympathetic attitude of the Government towards the interests of people engaged -in various pastoralist and agricultural callings indicates that the job is in good hands. The Central Wool Committee which, as the honorable member for New England said, controls the wool industry, was consulted when the scheme for thsale of wool to Great Britain was inaugurated, but many complaints were voiced in this Parliament and in the press that the wool-growers themselves had not been consulted. It was contended that the price which had ‘been fixed was an unfair one, and would mean that the growing of wool would be a non-paying proposition. The wool-growers wanted’ to know who had agreed to the proposal. Apparently, they had not been consulted at all. The honorable member for New England said that he was consulted.
– I did not “say that. I said that members of the Central Wool Committee, and growers’ representatives on the committee has been consulted.
– I draw attention to the following report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 30th June, 1942:-
As a member of the Central Wool Committee, Mr. Abbott said that he was present when negotiations took place for the war-time sale of the Australian clip.
A further report appeared in the same newspaper on the 11th June, 1940, stating -
Mr. J. P. Abbott, Chairman of the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council said yesterday that he entirely agreed with the statement by the Minister for Commerce, Mr. Cameron, that there should be no negotiations with the British Government this year for a change in the price of the Australian wool clip.
– That is perfectly true. That was the week that France fell.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In my opinion, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has rendered a service by the ‘action that he has taken this afternoon. However, since the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has admitted that the Government has no intention of attempting to rationalize the wool industry, the purpose of this motion seems to have been served, and I understand that- the honorable member for New England agrees with that. I should not have risen had it not been for the irresponsible remarks made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr, McLeod), a “ Johnny-come-lately “ in this chamber, who made bald statements without making any attempt whatever to confirm them. On many occasions since the inauguration of agreements for the sale of our primary products to Great Britain I have asked in this chamber when a review of the agreements would take place.
– Apparently, the honorable member’s questions had little effect upon the Government which he supported.
– The honorable member for Wannon claims to be the first to take action in this House on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia. I draw the attention of the honorable member to the following question which I asked in May, 1940 :-
Before the present sittings of the House are concluded will a statement be made indicating the intentions of the Government with regard to the wheat industry, as to both the question of an advance and any form of stabilization to be adopted for the coming year? Will a statement also be made as to whether there will be a review of the sales contract entered into last year with the British Government with regard to our exports of primary products, such as wool and butter? Will a statement be made, further, as to whether the wool purchase agreement will be reviewed, having regard to the increased cost of production?
In reply, the then Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) informed me that the contracts were subject to constant review. On the 31st May, I again addressed the House on this matter. Although the wool-growers met and determined as a body not to press the request for an increased price in view of the position in the United Kingdom at that time, I did not cease to press for a review, having regard to such factors as the increased cost of fertilizer, and the honorable member for Wannon should have acquainted himself of that fact. It is degrading the national Parliament when an honorable member makes irresponsible statements of the kind made by the honorable member forWannon.
– No result was achieved until a Labour government came into power. If the previous Government had remained in office nothing would have been done.
– I do not believe that the Attorney-General would claim that Australian wool-growers would not have been granted an increase when increases werebeing granted in all other parts of the Empire. Furthermore, it would not have been very difficult to obtain a greater increase of the price for Australian wool than was allowed. It is disgusting that so many irresponsible statements should be made in this House. I do not object to the truth being told.
– Australia was the first country in which the increase was granted.
– The British growers received a much greater increase than did Australian growers, and costs of production in Australia have increased more than they have in any other country.
– I only said that the right honorable member for Cowper was not concerned in the matter at all. Furthermore, increases were not made in the other dominions until after the Commonwealth Government had secured an increase.
– I should be perfectly satisfied with that statement, but a poli tical statement having no foundation in fact has been made. Does the AttorneyGeneral claim that, if any representative of Australia other than himself had made the request for an increase, the result would. have been different? The review was overdue, and I believe that the increase could have been more generous than it was.
– I also am astonished at the belated action of members of the Opposition in bringing this matter before the Government. Over three weeks have elapsed since press reports of the alleged statement by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) were published. Immediately the announcement appeared, I approached the Minister in order to learn the exact position, because I would have been one of the first to protest against any proposal to impose restrictions upon the pastoral industry. Honorable members opposite, who are now parading their supposed sympathy for the industry, offered no help to pastoralists in Western Australia when they were almost driven off the land by drought and other conditions over which they had no control. In five years, their flocks were reduced by over 3,000,000 sheep, but the governments at that time provided no relief to the industry. The attack upon the Government to-day is in keeping with the instructions issued to honorable members opposite in the party circular which was read to this House by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) recently. Honorable members opposite cannot truthfully deny my statement. Had they been as anxious about the wool industry, or the pastoral industry generally, as they claim to be, they would not have allowed a period of three weeks to elapse before raising the matter. Not one of them has approached the Minister to ascertain What truth there was in the newspaper reports.
– That is not right.
– On the 30th June, 1941, the newspapers published the following report of a statement made by the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) :-
No variation of the present price for Australian wool agreed on under the imperial wool-purchasing scheme is likely. The agreement provides that the price be reviewed by June of each year, hut the Government has not been inclined to seek a variation because it feels that the price is satisfactory arid that, because of the conditions in Great Britain, the agreement should be maintained without alteration.
That demonstrates clearly the attitude of honorable members opposite towards the pastoral industry.
– Is the honorable member in favour of curtailing flocks?
– I should be the first to protest against such a proposal. I should not wait for three weeks, as the honorable member did, until he was told by his party to raise the matter in order to impede the war effort and delay the business of the Parliament. The honorable gentleman offered no genuine criticism of the Government’s plans. He neglected opportunities to interview the Minister and ascertain the exact position. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) said that he was pleased to hear the statement of the Minister. He could have obtained the information contained in that statement three weeks ago.
– I have been endeavouring to obtain it for three weeks.
– From whom?
– From the Minister.
– The previous Government established the CentralWool Committee, which its supporters are criticizing to-day. When I was elected to this Parliament, I referred to that body as a “ centralization committee “, but I received no support from honorable members opposite. The small woolgrowers have been penalized for years owing to the lack of a plan to cope with the problems of the wool industry. Ever since I became a member of this Parliament I have been endeavouring to induce various Ministers to adopt a policy of decentralization. I have proved in this House before that 95,000 bales of wool would have passed through Geraldton each year if an appraisement centre had beenestablished there, but the previous Government refused to establish a centre, and, as a result, farmers in the Victoria district and adjacent areas of Western Australia, had to pay an extra 8s. or 10s. a bale in rail charges in order to gratify the wishes of the big brokers whose interests honorable members opposite represent.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1940.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is very brief and is introduced for the sole purpose of giving clear legal effect to the intention of Parliament that sales tax should be paid in respect of concrete and similar goods of a kind used in the construction of buildings. Before the 22nd November, 1940, concrete and other building materials were exempt from sales tax. On that date, because of the growing need of revenue for war purposes, the government of the day amended the law to withdraw those exemptions, and concrete became subject to tax at the minimum rate of 5 per cent. It was specified for that purpose in the Second Schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1940. The Commissioner of Taxation proceeded to collect tax on those goods from building contractors and other manufacturers of concrete. In view of the greatly increased need of revenue, the present Government introduced an amendment of the law on the 30th October, 1941, to cause concrete and other building materials to become taxable at the higher rate applicable to the general field of goods. That was achieved by omitting concrete from the Second Schedule. From that time, concrete has not been specified in any schedule of the act, nor are any of the goods in the general field so specified.
The collection of tax at the higher rate proceeded without challenge until recently, when certain authorities which make concrete for their own use disputed their liability to pay tax on that commodity. They claimed that concrete was excluded from liability for sales tax by the definition of “ manufacture “ in the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1940. That definition reads- “ Manufacture “ includes production, and also the combination of parts or ingredients whereby an article or substance is formed which is commercially distinct from those parts or ingredients, except such combination as, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is customary or reasonably practicable for users or consumers of those articles or substances to undertake, and also includes any treatment applied to foodstuffs as a process in the preparation of the foodstuffs for human consumption; “.
The excepting words were inserted in the law of 1932, solely with the object of excluding from the scope of the tax simple acts of assembling which are performed by retailers, for example, the attachment of handles to lawnmowers and brooms. Those words are relied upon by the authorities concerned in support of their contention that concrete is not taxable. Their claim is that the production of concrete is brought about by a combination of ingredients which users of concrete, for example, building contractors, customarily undertake. The effect of this definition had not been overlooked by the Commissioner when he commenced to collect tax on concrete. At that time, however, he was in a position to point to the specification of concrete in the Second Schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act as clear evidence of the intention of Parliament that concrete was to be taxed, and he was advised by the Crown Solicitor that this specification would, as a particular provision, prevail in law over the general provisions of the definition of <: manufacture “.
Since the amendment in October, 1941, however, there has been no such specification which could be relied upon by the department, and, therefore, there is no clear authority for the collection of the tax, although it has been the obvious intention of Parliament since the 22nd November, 1940, that the tax should be payable. In view of that intention, and the fact that the vast majority of taxpayers have complied with it by paying tax on the concrete made by them, it is considered that the few taxpayers who have disputed their liability should not be permitted to escape tax by a mere technicality. The bill is, therefore, introduced for the purpose of making it clear that the production of concrete is not outside the scope of the tax. It is proposed that the amendment effected by the bill shall be deemed to have commenced . on the 30th October, 1941, i.e., since there has been no specification of concrete in any of the sales tax schedules.
;Does this bill provide for the raising of more money?
– No, except that about 2 per cent, of the users of concrete who, on technical grounds, have escaped their liability to pay sales tax, will no longer escape.
– There have been fourteen amendments of the principal act, and this is the fif teenth. It is also the only gales tax assessment bill that does not provide for the raising of considerable amounts of revenue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to remove doubts as to the validity of certain Common wealth legislation, to obviate delays occurring in its passage and to effect certain related purposes, by adopting certain sections of the Statute of Westminster, 1031, ns from the commencement of the war between His Majesty the King and Germany.
I do not propose at present to ask the House to take the bill beyond the first reading.
.- The Opposition is prepared to support the motion only on the distinct understanding that the second reading of the bill will be postponed.
– The second reading will not be dealt with to-day.
– I desire the second reading to be postponed to a future date which will allow appropriate time for full consideration of this most important measure. The Opposition holds the view that .there ‘is no necessity whatever to rush this bill through the Parliament in the dying hours of the present sittings. The measure will probably lead to a great deal of confusion in the public mind at a time when the people should be united for one purpose only. The bill proposed to be introduced is not new. A similar measure was introduced in 1937. The war has been in progress for three years, and the present Government has been in power for one year; therefore, the Opposition sees no justification for the introduction of the measure in order to rush it to the second-reading and final stages- during the present sittings. Unless the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is prepared to undertake that after the second reading has been moved by him the debate will be adjourned to a future sitting of the House, in order that such an important matter may be understood by the people of Australia, the Opposition will not grant leave for the introduction of the bill.
– I hope that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will not accept the intolerable conditions laid down by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). The bill sought to be introduced ought to pass during this sessional period. The second reading of it should be made an order of the day for to-morrow, and when the Attorney-General had made the secondreading speech the debate ought to be adjourned until next week, in order that honorable members might have an opportunity to consider the matter fully. It is quite right and proper that legislation of this character should not be rushed. It would be scandalous if an attempt were made to push the bill through both Houses to-morrow. If the AttorneyGeneral is to be believed - and I believe him implicitly - this legislation is necessary. I cannot see one valid reason why this House should not sit next week, and the following week if necessary, in order to deal exclusively with this legislation and the referendum proposals of the Government.
– What about the public being given an opportunity to study it?
– The public has had ample opportunity to acquaint itself of the provisions of the Statute of Westminster, since the Imperial Conference in 1926 determined its form. In that year, legislation was passed by the Imperial Parliament, and that is the origin of the title “Statute of Westminster”. Many years ago, it was adopted by the Dominion of Canada. Australia has been very tardy in now doing what it ought to have done long ago. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), as Prime Minister, a few years ago introduced a bill to adopt certain sections of the Statute of Westminster. Prior to that, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), as Prime Minister, had introduced a similar measure. The Attorney-General should be assisted in every way to pass this legislation. The Opposition ought to grant leave for its introduction. It would be in the best interests of the nation if the Attorney-General were given the opportunity to move the second reading of the bill. Let the measure be passed by at least the end of next week.
– I support the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). I can see no reason whatever, at this period of the history of this Parliament and country, for the introduction of such a measure. The matter has remained quiescent since 1931. The taking of this step has been delayed until a war is affecting us grievously. The public has regarded action of this sort as tantamount to finally cutting adrift from the Empire, and has opposed it since 1931. In the throes of the worst war and the greatest crisis through which the Empire has passed, a government that has no mandate from the people, but occupied the treasury bench upon the defeat of the previous Administration on its budget proposals, and representing barely 50 per cent, of the people of this country, has the temerity to bring forward a measure that is vital to. the nation, in an endeavour to rush it through in the dying days of a sessional period. The whole incident is reprehensible. It should not be condoned or indulged in by the members of the party who sit on this side of the House. It certainly will not be condoned or indulged in by the public outside this House. Imagine what propaganda the Axis powers will make out of this action ! We know what views are held in regard to this matter by honorable members opposite, and shall have something to say about them when the bill comes up for consideration. We have heard their views in peace-time, and in the early days of this war. This is a natural corollary of the beliefs that they profess. I should like to know what the effect will be on our allies, and within the British Empire. Towards the close of 1918, something of a similar nature was indulged in by honorable members who now occupy the Government bench. I am rather suspicious of this move, and shall take advantage of all the forms of the House to oppose and delay it at every stage. The bill should not be introduced at a time like the present, and I fear the consequences if the principle of it be adopted.
– I understand that the Leader ofthe Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has stated that he will oppose the granting of leave to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to bring in this bill, unless the assurance be given that the debate will not be continued.
– For a reasonable time.
– I have only to say that the bill has no new features; in substance, it is identical with a measure that was before this Parliament previously.
– In a time of peace, not in a time of war.
Mr.CURTIN- In a time of peace. I do not know that we can discuss the merits of the bill in any way until leave has been granted to bring it in. I venture to say that the purport and substance of it is a matter of doubtful relevancy at this stage. I need only say that the Government, in the ordinary way, placed on the business-paper a notice of motion that the AttorneyGeneral have leave to bring in such a bill. Unusually, the right honorable gentleman circulated a monograph in relation to the purpose of the measure. There will not be any undue haste in dealing with it. The Attorney-General did not intend to make a second-reading speech on it to-day.
– It should not be introduced.
– The intention to introduce it was indicated some considerable time ago. We have observed the ordinary routine of placing on the business-paper a notice of motion for leave to bring in the bill. If leave were granted, the bill would be brought in, and would be read a first time in order that it might be circulated. The second reading would be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. This House would be in complete control of the decision how soon or how late the debate on the second reading should be taken.
– The Government is in complete control.
– The Government is not in complete control. It merely desires to elicit the wish of Parliament in the matter. It is most extraordinary that when in office the parties now in opposition sought to pass a bill of this character. Had that measure been passed, it would now be on the statutebook.
– Why was it not passed ?
Mr.CURTIN.- The reasons are set out in the circulated statement; after the bill had been introduced, but before the matter was determined, the Parliament was either dissolved or prorogued.
– The parties then on the other side would not agree to it.
– Yet it was introduced by a government consisting of members of those parties. At this stage, I shall not discuss the merits of the bill other than to say that the House must either give leave to introduce it, or refuse leave. If it gives leave, we shall be able to discuss the bill, and its second reading can be negatived if the House so desires. If, however, honorable members opposite have made up their minds not to consider the matter to which the measure relates they may as well refuse leave to introduce the bill. I move -
That the question be now put.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has made a plausible statement which it is proper to analyze. It is common knowledge among honorable members that the Government desired that Parliament should, if practicable, rise to-morrow, thus terminating the present sittings, and probably not resume until the new year. Consequently, when it was proposed that a measure affecting the Constitution should !be brought before the Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) rightly asked that reasonable opportunities to consider it should be provided. By no stretch of the imagination could it be suggested that the introduction of a bill to-day, and the moving of the second reading to-morrow, would, in the circumstances which I have related, provide anything like a reasonable opportunity for a .proper discussion of the measure.
– If the debate were not concluded to-morrow, it could be continued, next week.
– All that the Leader of the Opposition has said is that, before he is prepared to give leave to introduce the bill, an assurance should be given that the measure will not be rushed through the Parliament in order that the present sittings may terminate to-morrow.
– The Prime Minister gave that assurance, as I did, also.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out the scandalous nature of the proposal. In effect, the Leader of the Opposition has said, “ Give to us an assurance that the measure will not be rushed through, and we shall be prepared to grant leave to introduce it”.
.- I cannot help wondering whether the Statute of Westminster comes within the category of those matters which were included in a letter addressed to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard).
– It was omitted from the letter.
– It had its genesis in some observations which the honorable member for Batman has made from time to time.
– The honorable member flatters me, but not intentionally, I am sure. When I was a callow youth-
– The question before the House is that leave be granted to introduce the bill. The honorable member must confine his remarks to that subject.
– When you interrupted me, Mr. Speaker, I was about to say that in my more callow youth there were occasions when I joined with others in opposing a motion for leave to introduce a bill. I have, however, outlived that period. In recent years I have never known of an instance in which a Minister at the table has met with opposition when moving for leave to introduce a bill. To-day, however, a motion to that effect raised a barrage of opposition of a distinctly party character from the other side of the chamber. I agree that any Opposition is entitled to a proper opportunity to consider any measure introduced into this House. Less time, of course, is required for the consideration of some bills than of others. This bill is peculiar in that, in substance, it has been already agreed to by all parties in the House. On the Opposition side is my friend, the distinguished lawyer, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who himself introduced, and moved the second reading of, a bill that had precisely the same intention and purpose as this measure. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) seeks to impose conditions upon which he will suffer the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to move his motion. I, too, agree that if honorable members require time to consider the bill they should have it. I do not believe in rushlegislation. I see no reason why Parliament should not meet next week. I have, on more than one occasion, expressed the opinion that Parliament should sit practically continuously. I have prepared such a large number of speeches in anticipation of Parliament dealing with this subject that I do not require time to prepare further matter. This legislation has been pending for twelve years, and every one, except a few diehards like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), agree that it should be passed if we are not to break faith with the Mother of Parliaments. An undertaking was given to the Government of Great Britain, pursuant to an arrangement entered into at the Imperial Conference in 1930, that the Commonwealth Parliament would adopt the Statute of Westminster. We have failed to do so, so that we have broken faith, not only with our own people, but also with the Government of Great Britain. We have left that Government in the lurch during the last twelve years. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) spoke in a conciliatory tone to. members of the Opposition, but they were so little conciliated, and interrupted so freely, that I was not able to hear all that the Prime Minister said. The proper course is for the House to give leave to the Attorney-General without imposing conditions which I regard as offensive. The Leader of the Opposition is not usually offensive, but it is in fact offensive to seek to impose terms on the Attorney-General when he asks leave to bring in a bill. It is an unheard of condition. It denies the Minister the right to explain a bill which he is peculiarly well qualified to explain. I suggest that the bill be introduced, and read a first time. I should not object to hearing the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General, which I am sure would be both interesting and enlightening. Afterwards, I would expect the Leader of the Opposition would ask for the adjournment of the debate, and it would be given to him. Later, the bill would be debated, and as much time should be allowed for the discussion as even my rhetorical friend the honorable member for Wentworth, might require.
.- The Opposition refused leave to introduce this bill, not so much for the purpose of preventing discussion on the merits of the measure, as to prevent something from being thrown into the ring which, at this particular juncture, would not tend to promote unity in the country. The in cidents which have occurred in this House this afternoon indicate the inflammatory nature of the material which this bill contains. At this stage, I do not propose to say whether there is or is not justification for opposing the bill on its merits, but there can be no doubt in the mind of any unbiased observer what the reactions in this House, and, indeed, throughout the country, would be if the bill were debated. It could only create a tremendous division of opinion throughout the country at a time when the greatest measure of unity is needed. Measures similar to this bill have been before Parliament from time to time during the last twelve years, so there can be no urgency about this particular bill at this time. We have been able to carry on for twelve years, in peace and in war, without this legislation. Our relations with the Government of the United Kingdom have been satisfactory during all that time, so surely there is no reason now for pressing on with the measure which is bound to create division of opinion. This is a matter which should not be dealt with on party lines. Unfortunately, we seem to be drifting in that direction. I suggest to the Government, if it desires to prevent division among the Australian people, and to avoid a misunderstanding of the attitude of Australia towards the Empire and the other dominions, that it should not proceed with this measure. It is claimed that it will overcome small legislative difficulties. Those difficulties can be overcome by other and simpler means. However, the Government, seeks to balance those difficulties against the enormous damage which will be done if this measure be proceeded with at this stage. Behind the scenes, I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to prevent this measure from being proceeded with. In the interests of the Empire’s unity, and in order to prevent ammunition for propaganda from being given to our enemies, the Government should postpone the introduction of this measure.
.- This measure is not brought forward merely for the sake of ratifying a measure that was passed eleven years ago. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) brings it down because he is of opinion, and his opinion is corroborated by the Solicitor-General, who is not in politics, that failure to ratify sections 2 to 6 of the Statute of Westminster makes it difficult to draft measures which are necessary at this time. Paragraph 94 of the monograph circulated by the AttorneyGeneral reads -
I am authorized by the Solicitor-General to say that he is seriously concerned at the practical drafting and administrative difficulties which have arisen, especially during tho war, and which are sufficiently referred to in this monograph. I am also authorized to say that, in his opinion, the adoption of sections 2 to li of the Statute of Westminster would greatly facilitate tho work of draftsmanship and remove most of the doubts and difficulties which have been elaborated.
In a long document, the AttorneyGeneral has set out in detail the various difficulties which have arisen. We have the assurance of not only the political head of the Law Department that those difficulties exist, but also the permanenthead, who also agrees that they can be removed by the enactment of sections 2 to 6 of the Statute of Westminster. The important part of the statute is already law, namely, the preamble to the statute, which explains the new relationship between the Mother Country and the Dominions. The sections which we are now being asked to adopt will not loosen our tie with the Mother Country, but merely give to us increased legislative .power.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I have always thought an honorable member in order in discussing the merits of the bill on a motion of this kind. I have a distinct recollection that that procedure was followed with respect to the introduction of the referendum proposals in 1936. We should not do anything that is reasonably likely to impair our national unity, or arouse -misunderstanding of our action on the part of other countries. If the enactment of these sections is not necessary, this bill should not be introduced. However, if I am assured that this bill, although it may not actually be necessary, will facilitate the drafting of war measures by removing difficulties which cannot otherwise be surmounted, I support its introduction.
– What factors have intervened during the last three years of war to render the introduction of this measure necessary?
– I do not know. All I know is that the permanent head of the Law Department says that difficulties have arisen, and that they would be removed by the enactment of sections 2 to 6 of the Statute of Westminster.
– Is it being introduced to make the drafting of measures easier?
– Its object is to enable the draftsman to do with legislative certainty things which he cannot now do with that certainty. Consequently, it represents an advantage to our war effort. We should avail ourselves of that advantage, unless there be reasonable ground for believing that the passage of the measure will create national disunity - I do not think that it will - or that it can possibly be misunderstood in Great Britain, or any other country. The Dominion of Canada is already operating under these sections. Does any honorable member impugn the loyalty of the Government of Canada? No one will deny the great help which Canada is giving in this war to Great Britain. No one will doubt the loyalty of the Canadian people to the Mother Country. It is not fair to suggest that any division exists over the Government proposal to introduce this measure. However, a division may be created by making a party fight of the matter. A division may be created by telling the people that this is a move towards “ cutting the painter “. It is nothing of the kind. I believe that the people of Australia desire that the Commonwealth Parliament should be given the fullest possible legislative power that can be given to it. The British Parliament has agreed to give to the Commonwealth Parliament the fullest possible legislative power. If we have that power we shall be able, among other things, to deal with our own nationals overseas which we cannot do at present, not only in British, but also foreign countries. I agree that a measure of this kind should not be passed summarily. Before it is passed, honorable members should be given an opportunity to consult their constituents in order to ascertain exactly the feeling of the people towards it. I do not think that the House should rise this week. However, if this measure be rushed through, some colour will be given to the view that it is something upon which national disunity is possible. If honorable members study the measure closely, they will see that it contains nothing which is likely to threaten national unity, or loosen the bond between Australia and the Mother Country.
– I listened to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) with some surprise. He said that it was unheard of in this House for a Minister’s motion for leave to introduce a bill to be opposed. The honorable member , must have a short memory. On many occasions leave has been opposed; and there is nothing wrong with that practice. The honorable member’s speech was just another little contribution towards the propaganda which is being persistently put before the country to the effect that the Opposition is trying to obstruct the Government’s legislative programme. That charge is unfounded. The Opposition is merely doing what the Standing Orders of this House provide. Why would it be necessary for a Minister to obtain leave to introduce a bill if the Opposition were not justified in opposing the granting of leave?
– But the Opposition opposed the granting of leave without my having had an opportunity to explain the position. I distributed copies of my second-reading speech.
– The AttorneyGeneral did something entirely wrong in distributing copies of his secondreading speech before having been given leave to introduce the bill.
– I did so as an act of courtesy to honorable members. It contains an analysis of the legal position.
– In spite of all the Attorney-General may say the Opposition is within its rights in opposing this motion. Debate on the bill would inflame public opinion and any one with regard for the unity of the British Empire, without which we cannot achieve a united effort in this war, would take the same view.
.- In the three years in which we have been at war more statutory rules have been issued in this country than ever before and no confusion has arisen, but because of alleged minor difficulties in drafting legislation, this country is to be torn asunder by an attempt to adopt certain provisions of the Statute of Westminster - a statute which has caused extraordinary division of opinion in this country for eleven or twelve years. I appeal to the Government not to proceed on its present course. We and our allies are up against a far bigger problem than that presented to the House as the reason for the introduction of this measure. The high priest of propaganda, Dr. Goebbels, will seize, as evidence of disintegration of the empire, the fact that the Commonwealth Government has sought to take the step we are now opposing. If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has at heart the good of the British Empire, as I believe he has, he will heed our protests. Until now, I had reason to think that our representations to him had borne fruit and that he would not proceed with this measure. The fact that he is trying to do so indicates that behind him are forces that will not allow him do that which I think he wishes to do. Because of that I am the more violently opposed to this proposal. I ask the Attorney-General to disregard the counsel of those whom I suspect of being his advisers and not to hesitate in putting the empire first.
.- The first point in connexion with the motion of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is whether this is a propitious moment for the introduction and consideration of this measure. The second point is that the Opposition ought to be given the opportunity to study the bill before being obliged to proceed with the debate. The third point is whether it is proper and desirable, having regard to all the circumstances, that the Government’s proposals should be proceeded with before the people of Australia have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with them. The Attorney-General has indicated that the compelling point in introducing this measure now is its legal necessity. At present I am unable to argue whether the action proposed is necessary. But I put it strongly that, if legal obstacles provide the only justification for proceeding with this measure at this juncture, the justification is quite insufficient. I assume that legal obstacles exist affecting the authority of this Government and the authority of the United Kingdom Government. The two Governments are as fully clothed as governments could be, or ever have been, to deal with war problems by regulation.
– That is the point. The regulation authority can be applied in certain circumstances.
– The unfettered authority given to this Government by this Parliament to deal with problems arising from the war can be dealt with by regulation so far as they are problems affecting the Commonwealth Government.
– It is a technical question as to whether the basis of the regulations is legally sound or unsound.
– I appreciate the question of the legality of regulations promulgated by this Government so far as they conflict with the laws or regulations of the Government of the United Kingdom. But, the two Governments, possessing, as they do, complete authority to govern by regulation, I am sure, would have no difficulty whatever in devising in consultation interlocking regulations to straighten out the difficulties which I accept as existing and which are put forward by the Attorney-General as justification for the immediate enactment of this legislation. It would be entirely wrong for an act of this Parliament so greatly changing the relationship between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom to be passed merely because of the necessity of some passing legal problem. The real object of this legislation, of course, requires to be kept in the forefront in considering any aspect of it. The main object of the measure is to vary in a certain manner the constitutional relationship between the Commonwealth Government and the United Kingdom Government.
– No, that is not whatit does.
– It is a matter upon which there is some, although not an overwhelming, conflict of opinion, but it is beyond argument that a variation in the relationship between a British dominion and the British Government itself cannot be divorced from the existing circumstances of the war. There is not the slightest doubt that to express it in the mildest possible way, misapprehension will be created in the minds of some people in Australia, Great Britain, other British dominions, and both allied and enemy countries, as to the motive behind the choosing of this moment to do something which was not done during a period of peace. It shows a very illadvised intention on the part of the Government to create an opportunity for misunderstandings and suspicion to arise in the minds of our own people and our allies, and for enemy propagandists to exploit. The Government will make a proper, valuable and tolerant decision if, in view of the opinions expressed on this side of the House, it decides not to pass the measure at the present stage. I put that suggestion to the Government for its consideration, although I do not expect it to act upon it. If it is adamant in its decision to ask the Parliament to enact this legislation, I appeal to it not to hasten the processes. We are at the beginning of October, and in critical times. There is little doubt that the Government will call Parliament together again before the Christmas recess, probably for a short session. The Government should allow the Minister to make his second-reading speech, explaining to Parliament, the people of this dominion, and an interested world audience, its intentions and motives, and allow the debate to be adjourned until Parliament reassembles in a few weeks time, as no doubt it will, when we shall have an opportunity to debate the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
.- No good purpose will be served by recriminations, counter-charges and epithets across the chamber.
– Then set a good example.
– The epithets have come from both sides of the House. This matter should be discussed dispassionately, because the issues involved transcend in importance many of the other subjects brought before this Parliament. They are fundamental issues, although the terms of the schedule are very limited legally. As it appears to me, the issue before the chamber is whether the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) shall be given leave to bring in a bill for an act to remove doubts as to the validity of certain Commonwealth legislation, to obviate delays occurring in its passage, and to effect certain related purposes, by adopting specified sections of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, as from the commencement of the war between His Majesty the King and Germany. Speaking for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that leave should be given, and I regret that heat should have been displayed by some honorable members, because it will serve, not ourselves, but the enemy.
We should seek to discover precisely the issues to be considered. 1 deeply regret that the bill has been introduced, because it is impossible to explain to the people the issues involved in it. Misunderstandings will be created throughout the country, but if an attempt were made to educate the people upon this subject, I believe that those who are opposed to this legislation might adopt a different attitude towards it. But what impresses me as being extraordinary is that, at this stage of the war, it has been found necessary to introduce a bill to adopt the Statute of Westminster, although three years of administration have not revealed any pressing need for it. If the bill had been introduced before the outbreak of war. my view upon it would have been entirely different. If the matter could be discussed dispassionately and the people could understand precisely how limited is the issue, again my approach to the subject would be quite different. But it is because I do not consider that the people will be able quickly to understand a legal statute and’ its effect upon the constitutional relationship between the United Kingdom Government, Australia and the other dominions, or appreciated the finer impli cations of some of the provisions, that 1 believe the bill will have a very serious effect on our people.
– If they are not deliberately misled.
– At the commencement of my speech I expressed the hope that honorable members would refrain from recriminations, and deal with the subject upon its merits. If I may review the subject quickly, the position is that the constitutional relations between the United Kingdom Government and the Dominions will not be altered by this legislation. In 1926 and 1930, conferences were held between the United Kingdom Government and the dominions, and the parties agreed to certain resolutions, the effect of which was translated into legal phraseology by the Statute of Westminster. Whether the statesmen who attended those conferences and who in the space of four years sought to formalize the relationships between the Crown and the Dominions were wise in seeking thus to replace 400 years of legal growth and constitutional development is another matter. I have my own views upon it.
– Is the honorable gentleman making a second-reading speech ?
– No. I am seeking to avoid that.
– The honorable member should avoid it.
– I am deliberately seeking to avoid making a second-reading speech; I am pointing out the issues in the hope, vain though it appears to be. that the House will deal with. the merits of the motion. The status as between the Crown and the Dominions is not affected by the bill. The issue is purely as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament shall adopt sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Statute of Westminster. Section 2 relates to the validity of laws made by the parliament of a dominion.
– I should like to hear u responsible Minister deal with this matter. I do not wish to hear a member of the Opposition explain it.
– Order! The honorable member for Batman should not interject.
– I am quite in order in expressing my opinion, and the honorable member for Batman will be in order in attempting to controvert what I may say. Honorable members may judge between us. If the AttorneyGeneral were to explain those sections of the Statute of Westminster, his speech would automatically close the debate.
– The honorable member for Warringah is definitely making a second-reading speech.
– Order ! The honorable member for Warringah is not entitled to go into the details, but he may refer to the measure so far as it is relevant to the question of whether leave shall or shall not be given to the Attorney-General to bring in the bill.
– Do ‘ you rule, Mr. Speaker, that on the motion for leave to introduce a bill, an honorable member is not entitled to deal with the details of the measure?
– The honorable member is not supposed to know the provisions of the bill.
– If that be so, I am deprived of any valid argument.
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the details of the bill.
– I rise to order. Although sections of the Statute of Westminster appear in the schedule, this is not the first occasion on which they have been discussed by the House. Surely, honorable members are in order in referring to the Statute of Westminster when debating this motion. As the Statute of Westminster is a public document, the honorable member should not be debarred by the procedure of the House from referring to it.
-The position is well stated by the honorable member for Fawkner. So long as the honorable member for Warringah limits his references to the contents of the bill there will be no objection.
– The preamble to the Statute of Westminster makes it perfectly plain that no question of status is involved in the bill. The preamble points out that it would be in accord with the established constitutional practice of all members of the Commonwealth in rela tion to one another that any alteration of the law touching the succession to the Throne should be with the consent of all. That is not altered by the bill. The second proposition is that -
It is in accordance with the established constitutional position that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any of the said dominions as pail of the law of that dominion otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that dominion.
That paragraph of the preamble has little to do with this measure. It was constitutional practice before the Statute of Westminster was drawn up, and continues so to remain. The sections which are to he adopted by the bill are sections 2 to 6. I shall refer to them briefly. Section 2 provides that the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, shall not apply to any law made after the commencement of this act by the Parliament of a dominion. In short, any law of this Parliament shall not he held to be void because it conflicts with Imperial law. Section 3 reads -
It is hereby declared and enacted that the Parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extra-territorial operation.
That section is most important, because it confers upon this Parliament extended powers in respect of a number of matters, except insofar as they are not within the expressed powers of the States. Section 4! states -
No act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a dominion as part of the law of that dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that act that that dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.
I have already drawn attention to the preamble touching this subject-matter.
Section 5 deals with the powers of dominion Parliaments in relation to merchant shipping, and section 6 reads -
Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions of this act, section 4 of the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890 (which requires certain laws, to be reserved for the signification of His Majesty’s pleasure or to contain a suspending clause), and so much of section 7 of that act as requires the approval of His Majesty in Council to any rules of court for regulating the practice and procedure of a Colonial Court of Admiralty, shall cease to have effect in any dominion as from the commencement of this act.
Nothing should be found in this clause to excite either heated debate or real difference in this chamber. The sole purpose of the bill is, therefore, to adopt those five sections of the Statute of Westminster. If honorable members understand that, -the issue will be clear to them. There is no point in retracing the past for the purpose of deciding whether the statesmen who drew up the Statute of Westminster were right .or wrong in what they did. Although the issue in the bill is limited, it is impossible to make that clear to the public and misconception will arise both inside and outside Australia.
– The honorable member is clarifying the issue for the public.
– If one ever makes an issue clear to all honorable members in this chamber, it is a good accomplishment; but it would be more than a miracle if he could clarify the issue for the whole of the people. The Attorney-General would be well advised not to proceed beyond the second-reading stage. A great deal of harm may come from passing this bill, not because of its intrinsic merits, but because of the misunderstanding that may arise inside and outside Australia. For my part I believe that the Attorney-General should make his second-reading speech, and agree to an adjournment of the debate for the purpose of ascertaining whether a better approach can be made to the matter by first educating the people. In any event, I support the motion that leave be given to introduce the bill-
.- I record my protest against the haste in which this hill has been introduced. The expressed purpose of the legislation is to remove doubts as to the validity of certain Commonwealth acts. If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) believes that to be so, why did he not introduce the bill early in the session instead of at the eleventh hour? It is most unfair to the States and to the people to attempt to rush this legislation through Parliament at this juncture. The States were not represented at the Imperial Conference which drew up the Statute of Westminster. In fairness, the Attorney-General should not attempt to take the bill beyond the second-reading stage, so that people will have an opportunity to understand it. We have managed so far without passing this bill, and I oppose its introduction now. The conferences from which the resolutions ultimately emerged did not include representatives of the States, and I contend that the States are entitled to preserve such, relations as they like with the rest of the British Empire. .What does the Statute of Westminister seek to do? I ca 11 sum the matter up very briefly by quoting the following remarks made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in 1931 :-
I disagree entirely with the principles underlying the motion. To attempt to crystallize Empire relations in a legal formula is an act of supreme folly. They rest upon two principles which are antagonistic - the complete autonomy of the parts, and the unity of the whole.
On a point of order, I suggest that the Attorney-General, in his haste to introduce this bill, has adopted a most irregular and improper procedure. He has circulated copies of a monograph in connexion with the bill, copies of the second-reading speech which he proposes to make, and copies of the bill itself, although .permission for its introduction has not been granted. That is highly improper. I raise a point of order on the procedure that has been adopted.
– The Attorney-General is entitled to distribute copies of a monograph on any measure which he proposes to bring before the House. The circulation of copies of the bill to honorable members before leave has been granted for its introduction is certainly unusual, but it has no effect, inasmuch as it anticipates the granting of leave. I consider that any criticism of the propriety of his action is a matter for decision by honorable members rather than myself, and their decision will probably depend largely upon the motive which prompted the Attorney-General to have copies of the bill circulated.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has made plain to the House that he considers the proposal to introduce this bill to be most inopportune. His opinions have been supported in some degree by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who said that there was more in this proposal than might meet the eye at the moment. The honorable member enlightened us by saying that the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, had found extraordinary difficulty in drafting measures that are necessary at this time. As we all know, regulations have been poured out, almost in hundreds, by all governments which have held office since the war began. This point of view it new to trie, and I hope that it will be explained by the Attorney-General. I am anxious to know why the chief reason for attempting to introduce the bill at this time should relate to the mere mechanics of framing measures. I regard Sir George Knowles as a most efficient and alert officer, but it is extraordinary that he should have become aware of this difficulty only in the last few weeks. I have asked honorable members who have held the offices of Prime Minister and Attorney-General whether these great difficulties of law were brought to their attention. They told me, to my astonishment, that Sir George Knowles, despite his efficiency and alertness, had not mentioned these difficulties before. It. seems that they have become apparent only since the last change of government. I =hall expect to hear some sounder reasons than that before I shall agree to the introduction of the bill. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that nothing would disturb the country more at this time than the introduction of a bill which, no matter how the lawyers may argue, involves the question of Empire relations. W<; all remember that, after the conference of 1926, a certain gentleman said that the British Empire existed in name only. In the Statute of Westminster, an attempt was .made to set down a formula for relations within the British Commonwealth of Nations. No matter what legal arguments may be intruded, the fact has emerged in this chamber to-day that t.h» great issue which will divide the people of Australia is that of our relations with other members of the British Empire. Surely, at a time when we desire the utmost unify, this measure should not be introduced. As Mr. Oliver Littleton has said, we are passing through a breathless period which will determine the result of this war. Vital developments may occur within the next two or three weeks. The Government has no valid reason for introducing at this time a bill which will be misunderstood everywhere and which will cause intense dissention. We have been at war for three years, but I challenge the AttorneyGeneral to cite one instance of a difficulty that has arisen, since the outbreak of war. owing to the non-adoption of the Statute of Westminster. Even if a difficulty should arise, a simple solution could be found. On approach to the British Government, the difficulty would vanish overnight. No good purpose can be served by the introduction of the bill, but a great disservice can be done, not only to Australia, but also to the whole Allied cause.
.- lt is most unusual to oppose a request for leave to introduce a bill in this House. I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of this statute, although I have learned more about it during the last few days than I ever knew before. I am actuated by only one motive. It is evident to me that, if this bill be introduced and taken to the second-reading stage, there will occur in this House a bitter and acrimonious debate that will tend to divide the nation. That would be damaging to our cause. Anything that tends to divide us and to strengthen our enemies by creating opportunities for them to issue propaganda against us, is dangerous. For this reason, I deprecate the proposal to introduce the bill. I express no opinion upon its merits. I have heard some very sound opinions expressed by legal gentlemen in this chamber to the effect that the statute would strengthen the validity of our regulation and statute-making capacity in ordinary times. That may be so. But I take the view that any measure that will cause misunderstanding and dissention should not be introduced at this stage. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) could do a very big thing to-night. He could either agree to take the bill to the second-reading stage and then postpone further consideration of it for some time, or he could say, “ Well the bill has waited for so long now that it can wait a little longer “. I admit the limitations of our statute-making capacity, but we have carried on during three years of war in spite of those disabilities. Is it not possible for us to carry on a little longer? If, by doing without this proposed law, we can keep our people united for the time being, we should do so and thus do a great service to Australia.
.- 1 rise not for the purpose of unnecessarily occupying time on this matter, but because I have had some association with this problem in the past. In 1937, during the regime of the Lyons Government, a bill was introduced in terms identical with those of the bill which the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) now seeks to bring down. I was the Attorney-General in that Administration, and I made a second-reading speech on that bill. I recall that I then indicated that it was the kind of measure which ought, if possible, to be passed in times of peace when no unnecessary controversy would arise in relation to it. The discussion that we have heard here to-day shows how easy it is to have the most violent disagreements about, this measure, and what has been said in this House will, of course, inevitably be echoed outside. Unfortunately, this problem seems to have an explosive in it, and, equally unfortunately from my point of view, it seems to lend itself very readily to misunderstanding. I happen to believe that the great problems of status that are inevitably raised by partisans on this matter are no longer in the field of controversy. For better or for worse - and I think it was for worse - these matters were dealt with in 1926 and 1931, and were then disposed of. I recall to the memories of honorable members the fact that in 1931, when the ‘Statute of Westminster was-, in fact, passed through the British Parliament, that passage was requested by resolution passed by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. Although that is a fact, it is still true that many hundreds of thousands of people in Australia believe that a bill to adopt certain sections of the Statute of Westminster is one which gives rise, in a point fit for determination, to the question of the status of Australia in relation to the other countries of the British
Empire. To answer that is a task which no member could undertake in one speech; requires a consistent impact on the public mind. The question then arises as to how that can be brought about.
Normally, I think that most honorable members would ask, “ Why have a controversy of that kind in time of war?” But the Attorney-General says - and I refer to what he has told us in his monograph - that the reason for bringing it up at this stage is that acute practical difficulties have arisen, in effect, in the law department. That is a question of fact. It is a question on which many honorable members may desire to have their minds informed. That is a matter which, if it could be established in the minds of honorable members, might remove the heat from this argument- much more rapidly than anything else. Therefore, I suggest to the Prime Minister and to the Attorney-General that, if we are to blunder on into this matter, we shall have an argument which will rock this House and this country. Why should we go blundering on into the matter in that fashion? I have views on it which are not shared by all my colleagues on this, side of the House, hut that arises from the fact that, as I believe, I have had to give some special consideration to this problem in the past, and I have had to see my way clear to distinguish the problem of status, which I think has long been determined, from the immediate problem that arises from certain sections of the Statute of Westminster. I suggest that after this bill has been taken to the second-reading stage and the Attorney-General has made his speech on the motion for the second reading, a committee of members of this House, representing all parties, should at once be set up and that it should have access, not only to the Attorney-General, but also to his advisers in the law departments, so that they might have an opportunity to satisfy the minds of honorable members that there is “an urgent, practical need for the bill at this- time. If they do satisfy the minds of honorable members, T am sure that that will have a big influence on the course of events in this House. If they do not satisfy those minds, Ministers may in their turn satisfy themselves that what is to be gained by the passing of the measure is not worth the candle, because the candle may burn into a big flame. I commend that view to the Prime Minister and to the Attorney-General. Each of them is, as I am, concerned with a practical result. I do not think that any honorable member wants an unnecessary, heated controversy at this time about matters which in ay turn out to be irrelevant.
.- For over 150 years the people of Australia seem to have been satisfied with the silken threads that have bound us to the Mother Country. They still feel that no hawser could be made which would bind us more tightly. The people of this country are suspicious when any legislation is proposed that might affect that silken thread. The people are entitled to know more about this measure, and it would be wise if the Attorney-General (Dir. Evatt) deferred the consideration of the bill until next year, or preferably withdrew it until victory against the enemy has been won. The truth of my statement is demonstrated by a telegram received from Perth this evening. The Western Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia opened its annual congress at Perth yesterday, and this evening the following motion was adopted unanimously by the congress: -
Any attempt to adopt the Statute of Westminster or weaken the present tics that bind Australia to the Mother Country will be strenuously opposed by this branch of the league, which stands four-square for maintaining the league’s policy of the maintenance of the British Empire.
The telegram was signed by the president of the Perth branch, who is chairman of the congress. It may be claimed that this is an innocuous bill, but due consideration should be given to the fears expressed in this chamber that the bill will give rise to an acrimonious debate at a time when dissension in our ranks i3 most undesirable. Even though the measure might not be harmful, that is not the construction which the people wall place upon its introduction. Therefore, the Government would be well advised to postpone its consideration until next year, or better still until after the war.
– in reply - I shall try to explain to honorable members the purpose bill. I did not make a speech on the measure in moving for leave to introduce it, because I thought that the usual procedure would be followed, and that I should have an opportunity to explain its proposals on the motion for the second reading. The bill does not raise the problem of constitutional status. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) are right, and other speakers like the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) are hopelessly wrong. The question of status has been determined once and for all. Australia’s status as a nation was made clear in 1926 in the Balfour declaration. Many people disliked that declaration and many welcomed it. This bill is not concerned with the status of the Commonwealth as a part of the Empire. It does not involve the general relations of Australia with Great Britain or with the other self-governing dominions in one iota. It deals with five narrow, difficult, technical points of legal import, and nothing else. I shall not elaborate in detail what the bill does in respect of those points. Nobody realizes better than I that it is not a simple matter to clear away for ever any doubts or suspicions that honorable members may entertain about a bill of this kind. For that reason I thought it my duty to make available to honorable members the background, the detailed facts, and the difficulties with which we are confronted with regard to our own National Security Act and the regulations made under it in order to have effective legal control of shipping in our ports. All that I set out in black and white. I ask any honorable members who have spoken this afternoon whether they have read it.
– That is a most improper suggestion, and it should be withdrawn.
– If honorable members have read the monograph, they have completely misunderstood it. It is difficult and tough reading, because the technical side of the law is just as unpalatable to laymen as is the technical side of many other subjects.
I shall give an illustration of the need for this measure. A month or two ago, two Australian naval ratings on an Australian naval vessel, which had been temporarily transferred to the Royal Navy, were brought before a court martial in respect of a crime committed in the Pacific Ocean. After their trial, they were sentenced to death. By one method or another the matter finally reached the highest court, and there it was held that, for the duration of the war, because of temporary transfer of the ships to the Royal Navy, as distinct from the Royal Australian Navy, the ship and the ratings were controlled entirely by the Imperial act. Since 1910 we have had a safeguard in our Defence Act, in respect of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, the broad effect of which is to give to the Commonwealth Government, through the GovernorGeneral, the prerogative of pardon in respect of offences committed by our troops wherever they may be. It was held by the courts that an Imperial act, which had come into operation by reason of the temporary transfer of our ships to the Royal Navy, prevented the Commonwealth Government from using its statutory power. The matter had to be dealt with by a method which was quite unusual. Ministers here had- to get in touch with London, and the matter had to be determined finally there. Let mc give another illustration with regard to the Navigation Act. In June last this House and the Senate passed certain amendments of the navigation law dealing with investigations in relation to ships. Because of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, that bill could not receive the assent of the GovernorGeneral, but had to be reserved for final determination by His Majesty the King iti England.
– That is not troublesome.
– Our act was passed in June, nearly four months ago, but the King’s assent has not yet been proclaimed.
– Had the matter been urgent, the Government could have dealt with it by cable communications.
– I have given two illustrations of the difficulties that arise.
Ships come under our physical control. They have to be requisitioned. If they have aliens on board, regulations have to be passed to deal with discipline. The legal backing of all the regulations dealing with shipping, is uncertain.
Then there is the extra-territorial power mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). As the Pacific war develops, the necessity for exercising control in relation not to discipline but to civil administration becomes more apparent. By and large the statute will remove a large number of practical difficulties which in some degree obstruct us in the administration of the shipping law.
– Have those difficulties been in existence during the’ last three years ?
– They have been aggravated since the outbreak of war, in consequence of which shipping has become a more difficult problem. If the general question of status is not involved’, and these practical difficulties exist - as I state and as the Solicitor-General states - surely it is improper to say that this bill will be misunderstood, and that it will affect our relations with Britain ! I am not speaking of the motives of honorable members, which I appreciate and can understand. The actual fact is that our relations with Britain will not be affected one iota. But the suggestion in the House of Representatives, representing the people of Australia, that it will have such an effect, is the sort of thing that may cause misunderstanding and misinterpretation. I do not want to hurry the bill through. I want it to be carefully considered by this House, and by the Senate if it passes this House. I circulated a memorandum in order that honorable members would become informed of the difficulties that exist.
– Is it not more important that it should be understood by the country ?
– I do not think that it is. If there cannot be a frank statement of the difficulties, and an explanation that will give satisfaction to honorable members in this representative chamber, how could the matter be explained satisfactorily to the people at large? I have endeavoured to do more than I .believe any other Minister in my place would have done. The right honorable member for Kooyong (M-r. Menzies) has twice introduced a bill of this character. He knows that it is necessary. I appreciate his point, that it might not be desirable to pass a bill at a certain time. But I do not want legal difficulties to accumulate; I want to get rid of them, and get on with the job. One of the restrictions on Australian legislation is the Colonial Laws Validity Act, passed in 1865. The British Parliament said to the Australian Parliament in 1931, after the latter had requested it to do so, “ Here is the power. You can get rid of this fetter on yourself at any time you wish to do so “. That is all that is involved - a few legal fetters ; technical points ; difficulties of that kind.
– Is it suggested that, if this bill failed to pass, the difficulties mentioned by the right honorable gentleman would not be overcome?
– It is not only suggested, but also’ asserted; and it is true.
– And the war would have to stop?
– Of course the war would not have to stop. We would have to continue to pass regulations, subject always to the grave risk of their being challenged at any time in the courts. Why cannot our legislation be removed from the atmosphere of doubt? That is all that this is - legislation to remove doubts. I have so phrased the title of the bill that there may be no possibility of misunderstanding, unless it be deliberately injected into the discussions for the purpose of injuring Australia and Austraiian representative institutions. Does anyone consider that the people of Britain will think less of us, or of our relations with them, if we pass this legislation? Ties of kinship, and the legal unity that is maintained through His Majesty the King, are not affected by this measure. Is it thought that the people of Britain would resent the fact that we had removed the restriction of the Colonial Laws Validity Act? Would some one in Westminster tell some one in. Yorkshire, “ A terrible thing has happened: The Colonial Laws Validity Act, section 2, no longer applies to Australia, and the Australian Parliament can control shipping in its own waters “?
– Does not the right honorable gentleman believe that Goebbels would tell the world something?
– I do not think that Goebbels would tell the world anything, unless people in this country had suggested that he should do so. I have described the legal difficulties. If desired, the bill could be postponed until the end of the war. But why should it be said, “ You cannot pass it in peace-time, because it is not urgent enough, and you cannot pass it in wartime, because the emergency is too great; therefore, you will never pass it”? The consequence would be, that for all time there would be a legal blot on Australian legislation dealing with shipping, and a doubt whether Australia had the power given to it by it3 Constitution to legislate in respect of certain matters. The selfgoverning dominions and the British Parliament all have that power.
– If the difficulties that the right honorable gentleman has outlined exist to-day, why did they not exist during the last war?
– During the last war, it would not have been possible for us to deal with a subject such as the Merchant Shipping Act. The whole point of view has changed since 1914; and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) played a. very prominent part in. securing that change, and in ensuring that the dominions had real selfgovernment in relation to their own affairs. I have given one illustration of a difficulty that has arisen because of sentence of death having been passed on two Australian, ratings. The statute law alone is to blame.
– No sentence of death -was ever pronounced by a court martial.
– The honorable member has misunderstood me. The sentence was promulgated by a court martial established under British law, the operation of which had been attracted by reason of the fact that an Australian vessel had been temporarily transferred to the Royal Navy. The same act operated in the last war, but sentence of death was never imposed without the consent of the Australian Government.
– It was not imposed at all.
– In this particular matter, the difficulty arose because of a statute.
– Could, it not be stipulated that sentence of death should not be passed in respect of any rating on an Australian ship that had been transferred temporarily to the Royal Navy?
– By virtue of the Navy Discipline Act, control has passed to the Imperial Government.
– Could not these legal obstacles be overcome equally effectively by a regulation made by the British Government under the Defence of the Realm Act?
– The honorable member has asked a relevant question. If the
English statute has been sufficiently widely drafted - and probably it has been - perhaps the action he has suggested could be taken. But imagine what we would have to do. We would have to send a message to the Prime Minister of Britain, saying, “ Would you mind passing a regulation, in the name of the King, making thi? provision for Australia?” The difficulty could probably be met in that way for the duration of the war.
– Then why worry?
– What would be the answer of the Prime Minister of Britain ? He would say, “ You can do it for yourself. We have given you the power to do it. Do not bother us with these things “. If I have spoken forcefully, it is not because I consider that honorable members are not. justified in asking questions. But I was horrified this afternoon when I sought leave to introduce a bill to deal with certain technical legal questions, and was met with a barrage of opposition on the ground that what I was proposing was anti-British. I say that it is not anti-British; that nobody can characterize either thi= proposal or this Government as anti-British ; and that, if anybody should do so, we should know how to deal with such characterization. I remember the Primp. Minister of Britain saying on one occasion, “I have always found that the better Australian a man is the better Britisher he is “. That is true. The people of Britain do not expect that we shall fail to look after the interests of Australia. This is an Australian Parliament. Honorable members may adopt sections 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 of the Statute of Westminster. What objections have they to such adoption? This is a specific submission that deals with five specific problems. The British people understand the position, and so do the people of other countries. Our tie with Britain is still the tie to which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred - the silken tie of kinship, plus the legal tie that endures for ever, namely, allegiance to His Majesty the King and the unity of the Crown throughout the Empire. Our unity with Britain does not depend on our legal, technical subordination as a Parliament to the Imperial Parliament. The Imperial Parliament is not interested. It said eleven years ago, You have these powers. If you are in any difficulty at any time, please exercise them on your own behalf, without worrying us “. I appeal to honorable members opposite to consider the matter in that light. I believe that the right honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable members for Warringah (Mr. Spender), Batman (Mr. Brennan), and Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and myself. are in reality in substantial agreement. I appreciate the point put by the honorable member for Warringah : “ Why bring it in to-day; it can wait”. I admit that. T have the authority of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to say that the Government would like to. bring on the second reading to-morrow. The debate would not be terminated by arbitrary closure. There is nothing in the bill that is anti-British. It could be passed in a few hours. I frankly confess that I thought it would be treated in that way.
– The right honorable gentleman knew, before he brought the matter forward, that there would be opposition to the proposal from outside.
– Education on a technical, legal matter is difficult. On this topic, it is unceasing. The Sydney Morning Herald has been publishing letters on the subject for the last month. Most of the correspondents have been for the proposal, and a few against it. When the question is narrowed to the true issues, there cannot be any objection to it by the Australian Parliament. Unless the statute is adopted, we shall be under the eternal difficulty of not knowing when some of our most important regulations may be declared illegal and invalid. Therefore, I ask honorable members not only to grant leave to introduce the bill, but also for their assistance in passing it. Apparently, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) objects to what I have done. If I have offended, I apologize. Believing that in a technical problem it would be wise to have some assistance, I arranged for two experts to be available for consultation by members of both houses of the Parliament. Many members have availed themselves of the opportunity thus provided.
The proposal is to adopt five sections of the statute, namely, sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. If leave be granted, the first reading will be moved to-night, and the second reading to-morrow. I ask honorable members to view this proposal in the light of our determination to remove the technical difficulties that exist. If they do that, I do not think that there will be any delay in passing the measure. If, however, they are still doubtful, the Prime Minister authorizes me to say that he is prepared to sit next week, or until honorable members can thrash the whole matter out.
– What about the suggestion of the right honorable member for Kooyong?
– I ask the right honorable member for Kooyong to accept my assurance that practical difficulties have arisen. I have stated the difficulties, and the permanent head of my department has concurred.
– I was not so concerned about my own state of mind, as I am not unfamiliar with the position, but I am concerned with the view of honorable members generally.
– The right honorable gentleman understands the difficulties because technical matters of law are involved. I ask the House to grant the leave to-night. The bill will then be circulated, and the second reading will be moved to-morrow. If honorable members will study the circulated monograph it should be possible to pass the bill without any division at all.
– It would help if the Attorney-General would give more recognition to the suggestion of the right honorable member for Kooyong.
– I shall consider his suggestion, but I submit that the case I have put is unanswerable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws for the purpose of carrying into effect the war aims and objects of Australia as one of the United Nations, including the attainment of economic security and social justice in the post-war world, and for the purpose of postwar reconstruction generally.
When the war is over, Australia will be confronted with the greatest task of economic rehabilitation in its history. Problems of employment, of housing, of health and child welfare, of vocational training, and of markets and price stability, will call for enterprise and statecraft of the highest order. The whole history of the Commonwealth Constitution shows that these problems cannot be solved without wider powers in the hands of the central government.
In war-time the defence power has given the Commonwealth sufficient authority to handle the acute problems that arise. In the post-war world the problems will be no less acute, and no less urgent. There will be no defence powers on which to rely, and unless the Commonwealth is given sufficient power by the people the whole social and economic life of Australia will be placed in great jeopardy. Positive, quick and courageous action must be taken after the war to ensure employment and social security for all, improved health and child welfare standards, the housing of the people, and the promotion of economic stability. These are all major matters of policy that must be contemplated on an Australian basis, not on a state or a sectional basis. We cannot afford to leave any doubt about the powers of the Commonwealth to deal with them directly, or to delegate such functions as it desires to the States and local authorities. While delegation will often be essential, a supreme directing and responsible authority is an absolute condition of success in the attack on post-war problems. Divided authority causes hesitancy, irresponsibility and doubts. These are not the conditions under which a national plan for social security and economic advancement can be developed. A national plan requires national action. This can only be assured by granting appropriate powers to the national Parliament. In short, events have proved that the Constitution which the Australian people adopted in 1900 is flexible enough for the needs of war. But it is equally true that it is not flexible enough to serve Australia in the great task of post-war re-organization which the declared war aims of the United Nations will involve. Why is this? The defence powers of the Commonwealth are contained in a few general words, to which the courts have been able to give a sufficiently wide interpretation to meet the situation of totalitarian war. .By way of contrast, the peace-time powers of the Commonwealth, though numerous and detailed, are hedged round with severe limitations. Although they were written down in the 1890’s, many of the words and phrases were simply transcribed from the American Constitution of 1787. The general approach belongs to the horseandbuggy age of social organization. This is especially true of the economic powers that are so vital an element in a modern industrial community. For instance, “ trade and commerce “ is so divided between the Commonwealth and the State authority that neither can deal effectively with it. Such topics as production, employment, investment, industrial conditions, are either not committed to the national government at all, or are granted in jealous, limited, qualified and indirect terms. The Constitution of 1900 is outmoded.
If the exercise of national power is necessary for war, it is equally necessary for reconstruction. Most thoughtful Australians are realizing that the Con stitution of 1900 is not an instrument fitted to the needs of to-morrow. Let us consider the tasks involved. The mistakes of the past must not be repeated. Every promise to the men and women of the fighting services must be honoured. The full development of the physical resources of Australia will be necessary for expanded production, increased population, full employment and social security. No policy of national development can be carried out effectively without power to control prices and invest’ ment. The transfer of men and women from the fighting services and the wartime industries to suitable peace-time occupations will involve a huge programme of works and housing. The division of powers between the Commonwealth and six States with divergent policies, will be a fatal obstacle to speedy and effective national planning. Some of the Commonwealth’s war-time controls may last for a time after hostilities close; but only for a time. Without carefully considered, constitutional amendment the result in the post-war world of Australia will be social and economic disorganization, chaos in production, mounting unemployment, widespread social insecurity - in short, anarchy. But the problem goes even deeper. This country, like all the other United Nations, has pledged itself to the task of achieving the broad objectives embodied in the Atlantic Charter and in the historic declaration of the four essential human freedoms - freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear - anywhere and everywhere in the world. These declarations are not legal instruments technically binding on Australia ; they are far more. They are solemn pledges of our dedication as a nation to the great ends of economic security, social justice and individual freedom. Do we intend to carry out these pledges? The answer is, “Yes, we must “. If so, the Australian nation, which is pledged as a nation, must be endowed as a nation with legislative powers to carry out the pledges within Australia and its territories. For these reasons we should ask the people to grant to us power to carry out the war aims and objects of the United Nations. It may be said that any elaborate discussion of constitutional changes will divert energy and attention from the war effort. If this contention were sound, it should be upheld. But it is unsound for two distinct reasons. First, it is becoming more and more clear that the military overthrow of our enemies, although our primary aim, will in no way be obstructed, but will be assisted if positive plans are now laid a= to the course to be pursued in the post-war period. It is an important part of the war effort itself that some plan of economic and social justice shall now be prepared as some guarantee to the mfn and women of Australia, that their self-sacrifice will not have been in vain. I cannot sum up this better than by quoting from a recent speech of Mr. John Winant, American Ambassador to Britain, who,’ on the Sth June, speaking to the Durham miners, said -
To crush Fascism at its roots we must crush depression. We must solemnly resolve that in our future order we will not tolerate the economic evils which breed poverty and war. This is not something that we shelve “for the duration”; it is part of the war.
Secondly, it is plain that, if no action be taken till the war is over, it will then be too late. The problems arising on the termination of hostilities will require action as drastic and as urgent, as tha war itself. But the process of amending the Constitution takes some time, and a great constitutional change should never be carried out. without careful consideration. We should prepare for the task now. Later may be too late.
In the 42 years of the history of the Commonwealth, eighteen constitutional alterations have been submitted to the people at referendums. Only three have been accepted. A great many reasons for this have been advanced. I suggest that the real explanation is to be found, not in any theory, not in popular inertia or in popular ignorance, but in a fact which is so obvious that no one takes any account of it. Both in the United States of America and Australia the few amendments that have been passed Iia ve been specific. They have not merely sought to give a power, but have indicated, though often in broad terms, what is, in fact, to be clone. When it is proposed simply to give a power, the pro- posal leaves room for fear that the powers will be exercised in some way that is objectionable. The fifteen proposals for the amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution were rejected because the people could not be reasonably sure how the powers would be exercised. What is needed is to tell people more about the objects to be achieved. The Government has kept these considerations in mind in deciding the form of the present proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Broadly speaking, there are four distinct methods by which the necessary changes can be made. First, it would be possible to draft a number of detailed alterations to the powers already contained in sections 51 and 52, adding some new ones and striking out limitations from some of the others. This has been the usual method hitherto. It is open, however, to the great objection that it is extremely hard for the layman, or even for the lawyer, to understand exactly what is the effect of the changes. Furthermore, in amendments of this kind, it is especially difficult to avoid a mere list of subject-matters giving no indication of the ends to be accomplished and the obligations to be assumed. The Government has, therefore, rejected this method. Secondly, it would be possible to re-write the whole Constitution on the basis, say, of the South African model. This would give to the Commonwealth a legislative power unlimited as to subjectmatter, leaving to the States only such powers as were assigned to them by the Commonwealth. This kind of alteration, however, is hardly the plan which can be commenced under war-time conditions. It is also open to precisely the same objection as the first, namely that it gives no indication of the objects that are aimed at. Thirdly, it would be possible to re-write the division of powers on the Canadian model. This would give the residuary powers to the Commonwealth and only such powers to the States as were enumerated. This alternative is open to just the same objections as the second, though, perhaps, to a lesser degree. The Government has, therefore, rejected both the second and third alternatives. Fourthly, there remains the plan of allotting to the Commonwealth
Parliament a broad, but specific, power to carry into effect the war aims and objects of Australia as one of the United Nations, including in such aims and objects “ the attainment of economic security and social justice in the post-war world “ and post-war reconstruction generally.
The fundamental feature of the proposed amendment is contained in the title. There the objective is plainly set out. It is to entrust the Commonwealth with powers to carry into effect the war aims and objects of the United Nations. The place that the attainment of economic security and social justice in the post-war world occupies among those aims is specifically mentioned. Though individual subject-matters of power are also enumerated, they are given by way of illustration and not by way of limitation. In many cases, the objective of policy is indicated in the list of particular subject-matters. Honorable members will note that this list, which will be found in sub-section 2, includes power for guaranteeing “ the four essential human freedoms “, to use President Roosevelt’s famous phrase. At all points it is made clear that what the Parliament is asking for is power to carry out in peace-time the social and economic aims that the United Nations have declared in time of war. Surely those ideals for which our fellow countrymen have fought and died are worth embodying in the fundamental law of our Constitution.
It is proposed to insert the alterations, not in Part V. of Chapter 1 of the Constitution, which contains the principal existing powers of the Parliament, but in a separate part immediately following it. To inject the new powers among the old would lead to confusion. None of the limitations contained in the rest of the Constitution will apply to the powers contained in the new section 60a. No time limit is fixed for the duration of the “ war aims and reconstruction “ powers. They will, and should, remain available as long as the needs that call them into being. It is obvious that, if the amendment is accepted, the duties that will devolve on the Parliament in time of peace will be added to, and that some increase will be required in the number of members of the National
Parliament. That increase, however, can be effectuated by Parliament itself without any constitutional alteration, and such a proposal should logically come up for consideration after the present amendment has been approved by the people.
I should, perhaps, draw attention to one feature of these new powers that is entirely new in Australian constitutional history. It will be found in the first paragraph of the new sub-section 2 of section 60a. It is proposed that the Parliament should have power to make any law which in its own declared opinion will tend to achieve economic security and social justice, including security of employment and the provision of useful occupation for all the people. I desire to make it perfectly clear that the amendment I propose will give the decision to Parliament itself, and no person will be able to challenge the validity of Parliament’s decision. For its decisions and actions Parliament will be responsible to one authority only - the people of Australia.
In moving that I have leave to introduce the bill, I have given a summary of the objects which may be achieved. The measure is not a party measure, and I hope it will not be so considered. Further, it is hoped that the States of Australia will see fit to co-operate with the Commonwealth in making a constitutional alteration which will assist the nation of to-day to prosecute the present war to a victorious conclusion and will also help to lay a sure foundation for the nation of to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 15 -
After section one hundred and two of the principal act, the following section is inserted in Division 6 : - “ 102aa. Where, under the terms of an agreement in writing, a taxpayer carrying on a business has undertaken to pay part of the proceeds of that business to the trustees of a fund . . . “.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ in writing”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
In the course of his second-reading speech on this bill, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Fadden) referred to the provision that is being made to allow deductions of contributions to funds for the benefit of persons on war service and their dependants. Under the provision, the payments are allowable deductions when they are made under the terms of an agreement in writing. The right honorable gentleman has called attention to funds that are not governed by written agreements. The payments to these funds are made by oral arrangement. The amendment that has been made in the Senate will include these latter payments within the deductible amounts. It was also suggested that the beneficiaries in the funds should be assessed at personal exertion rates. The Commissioner of Taxation has informed me that amounts paid to the beneficiaries will be assessed as income from personal exertion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 4 - (4.) The offence of black marketing shall not be prosecuted without the written consent of the Attorney-General after report from the Minister administering the regulations in relation to which the offence was committed.
Senate’s amendment. - At the end of subclause (4.) add the words “and advice from a committee appointed by the AttorneyGeneral and consisting of a representative of the department administered by that Minister, a representative of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and a representative of the branch of the Department of Trade and Customs known as the Prices Branch “.
Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-
That the amendmentbe agreed to.
Honorable members will recall that, when the bill was first before the House, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) suggested that, before a prosecution was launched, an advisory committee, representative of the three departments concerned-, should advise the Attorney-General. I accepted the suggestion, and when the bill was before the Senate an amendment was agreed to providing for the appointment of a statutory committee, thus rendering formal a body which might otherwise have been regarded as informal.
– No, only to recommend to the Attorney-General that a prosecution be launched. The amendment makes mandatory a course of action which the Government was all along prepared to follow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 1st October (vide page 1285).
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
– (1.) For the purposes of these regulations there shallbe a Women’s Employment Board consisting of a chairman, one representative of the Commonwealth, one representative of employers other than the Commonwealth, and two representatives of employees. (2.) The members of the board shall be appointed by the Minister.
– (1.) Where an employer . . . proposes to employ females. . . . (5.) The board shall decide a rate of payment under sub-paragraph (vi) of paragraph (b) of sub-regulation (4.) of this regulation which it considers to be just and proper in all the circumstances and shall, as far as is practicable, assess that rate by reference to the efficiency of females in the performance of the work and any other special factors which may be likely to affect the productivity of their work in relation to that of males:
– I move -
That, in regulation 5, after sub-regulation (2.), the following sub-regulation be inserted: - “ (2a.) The representative of the Commonwealth shall be a person whohas, for a period of .it least twelve months before his appointment, been engaged in war production in a managerial capacity.”.
The object of the amendment is to impose a qualification for the person who may be appointed to represent the Government on the board. Having regard to certain telegrams which some of’ my colleagues received to-day, I point out that the word “ his “ does not imply that only a man may be appointed. The amendment would permit of a woman being appointed to the board, and the Opposition wishes to make it clear that it has no objection to the appointment of a woman. The point is, however, that the person who represents the Government in. its capacity as an employer should be some one who will view matters from the managerial point of view, and not from the point of view of the employees, whose interests are already adequately protected. I understand that in the early hours of this morning the Prime Minister indicated that there might be difficulty about securing somebody who had been engaged in war production. Therefore, I shall be prepared to omit from my amendment the word “ war “. Should the right honorable gentleman feel that engagement “ in production “ is too wide, I am quite prepared to modify my amendment in that respect also; because what I want to get at in some appropriate form is that the experience of this government representative shall have been on the managerial side. So that, either in the form I now move it, or in some other form which might be acceptable to the Government, I suggest that the amendment should be made.
– In order to remove a misapprehension that the amendment is designed to exclude the possibility of any woman being appointed to the board, I suggest that it be varied to read “ his or her “.
– As the Acts Interpretation Act applies to this measure such an alteration would create an anomaly in drafting.
– I think that my point could be met by omitting the word “ his “ which is redundant.
.- I suggest a minor alteration of the verbiage of the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), namely, to substitute for the words, “ in war production “ the words “ in industry “. The term industry is extremely wide, and covers almost every trade and profession. This alteration would meet the objection that the amendment is too narrow.
– Would it not be better to substitute the words “in industry, including government industry “ ?
– In whatever form of words honorable members have suggested their proposals they would make it impossible for the Commonwealth to appoint Miss Cashman as its representative on the Women’s Employment Board.
– It is her scalp that they are after.
– I do not say that. It is quite true that the unions could appoint Miss Cashman as their representative. It is also true that the employers could appoint a woman as their representative; but the fact is that the Government is responsible for this board, and the Government itself is entitled to a representative on it. It is also true that the Government, as a Government, is representative of all the people of Australia, half of whom are women. The primary function of the board is to decide the rates of pay for women who are being brought into industry for war purposes, according to their efficiency in relation to the male labour they displace. The board in all its decisions will. fix for the present the rates of pay that women shall receive for work in war industry, and in civil industry where they replace men for war purposes. This is in order that the war may be fought more vigorously by using that male labour in the fighting services, or in essential services, and, at the same time, by preventing the country from being deprived of the production which would be lost if these, men were not replaced in industry. The greater number of these women, who have never worked before for wages, and have had no experience of the contractual relationship between employer and employees, are asked to accept such a relationship; and the majority of them, so far as we can see, will, in fact, become employees of the Commonwealth Government, or a State government, or a public instrumentality. Frankly, the Government believes that such a board, in order to be composed reasonably, ought at least to carry the guarantee that it gives representation to the sex that is most affected by its decision’s. It is the responsibility of the Government to insure that the board shall be representative of women.
– The Government can do that by insisting that at least one member of the board shall be a woman.
– The schedule prescribes that organizations of employers or employees shall be consulted as to who shall be their respective representatives, and that such bodies shall be entitled to select the person most qualified to represent them. We impose no condition upon the employers, or the Australasian Council of Trade Unions which speaks for the employees in this case, as to whom they shall select. We ask them to make their own nominations ; and, unless a strong reason exists for rejecting any person nominated,’ he, or she, will, as a matter of fact, be appointed by the Minister to the board. The Government has a say in the appointment of two of the five members who comprise the board. The Government is, in fact, able to say who shall be the chairman, and who shall be the representative of the Commonwealth. Outside of those two choices, the choice of the employers’ representatives and those of the trade unions rest with the bodies to be consulted.
– Is it not reasonable to expect that the chairman will have regard to the interests of the Government and public interest, and, therefore, will in effect be the representative of the Government?
– Yes; but the Government is also an employer. As a matter of fact, it will be the employer of the majority of these women. The Government has had experience of the employment of women in these industries; and it expects a great increase of the number of women it now employs. If we accept the amendment, we shall, in effect, admit that our choice of Miss Cashman was a bad choice. I am not prepared to admit that. On the contrary, I do not believe that this, or any other Government, having regard to the functions of this board, could have made a more satisfactory choice. I say that candidly. I shall not traverse the arguments raised in this respect by honorable members, except to say that Miss Cashman was a Commonwealth officer when the present Government appointed her to the board. She was appointed a Commonwealth officer by the previous Government.
– For entirely different work.
– Yes. She had been appointed to an inspectorial office. The duty we gave to her as a member of the board was to assess the value of women’s work in relation to that of men. Her industrial experience had not been that of a representative either of employers or employees. As a matter of fact, she was a servant of a trade union, which, curiously, is one of the few great unions that has had a long experience in looking after the interests of both sexes in industry, namely, the Printing Industry Employees Union. That union has a considerable number of female members. I, myself, have been associated with them in industry; and, I know that this problem which has to be faced by the board requires -some experience of the relationships which must exist in factories between the sexes. Miss Cashman has had an unrivalled experience in that respect.
– -She would have made a perfect representative of the employees on the board.
– The right honorable gentleman says, in effect, that Miss Cashman should serve on the board; and that it is the duty of the trade unions to appoint her. The Government is asked, in effect, to tell the trade unions to appoint a Commonwealth public servant as their representative. I know of no way in which the women of Australia, who number half the population, can be assured that they will be represented on this board unless the Government ensures that a woman is appointed to it.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is opposed to the appointment - of a woman as its representative ?
– No. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions is responsible for seeing that not only women’s interests but also the interests of men are protected in industry. The major fear that organized unionism entertains concerning the employment of women in industry is that such a policy will leave a legacy of low standards in the future. Unless they are given a satisfactory contract, they resent our various plans for diluting labour, which, as they put it, endanger their standards. This Parliament under its present powers, cannot guarantee that the standards which will be reduced in the prosecution of the war will be restored when the war is over. As was explained earlier this evening, the power of this Parliament with regard to the regulation of labour is so limited that it is impossible for it to enter into formal agreements with trade unions, which would be binding upon the Commonwealth beyond the duration of the war and one year thereafter. Therefore, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions properly says that it will object to the employment of women in major industries, but will withdraw that objection if it receives an assurance that women will not be used by either the Government or private employers, to the detriment of men. I was so impressed by the complaint voiced by the right honorable member for Kooyong some time ago when he unsuccessfully moved for the disallowance of the National Security (Women’s Employment) Regulations that the private employers were not represented on the Women’s Employment Board that we amended the regulations in order to provide that representation. In order to balance the board we allowed the appointment of another representative of the private employees. I considered that that should meet the wishes of the Opposition. Honorable gentlemen have not criticized anything the board has done and, so far as I can see, there is no widespread discontent about what it has done. If there were a vacancy on the board, I should be quite ready to accept the amendment of the right honorable member for Kooyong, as he now proposes to move it, but there is no vacancy. The Government has appointed Miss Cashman. She is the only representative of women, who ought to be represented. Having made its choice, the Government will stick to it to the end.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has shown that the Government will not accept the amendment of the right honorable member for Kooyong, (Mir. Menzies). A way out of the impasse would be for the Commonwealth to be represented by Miss Cashman, or any other person whom it chose as an advocate at sittings of the board to determine wages and conditions of women employed by the Commonwealth. It is a sound principle that there should not be any representation on the board of sectional interests. The representatives of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions represent whole sections of industry, not any particular section of industry, or any particular industry. They speak for industry as a whole. It could be argued that it is improper for the Commonwealth, -as an. interested party, to be represented on the board when matters concerning it are dealt with, and that it is preferable that it be represented by an advocate. That would overcome the dilemma confronting the committee, unless it is prepared to carry the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Kooyong.
Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [9.54 j.- The amendment of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) would result in there being no representative of women workers on the Women’s Employment Board; but the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that it was desirable that a woman should be on it. The only woman who could be appointed under the terms of the amendment would be a woman with managerial experience in production - in other words, an employer. Although I admit that the composition of the board is anomalous and illogical, it works because its discretion is so narrowly limited by the regulations.
It is desirable that the board should include a person with knowledge of the point of view of women workers. Of the representatives of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions, one is primarily concerned with the point of view of a man’s industry, and the other represents an industry in which both men and women are employed. Apart from Miss Cashman there is no woman on the board to put the point of view of women alone.
– One of the union representatives could be a woman.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said that he does not intend to limit the choice of the unions.
– Why not?
M:i BLACKBURN.- I am not concerned with his reasons, but I do know that the unions would resent any attempt to coerce them. 1 am sure that no female member of the Clothing Trades Union could represent it so well as does Mr. Wallis. It would be no wiser to have that union represented by some one less capable of stating its point of view than it would be to have the employers represented by some one less capable of stating their point of view. The right honorable gentleman’s amendment would exclude from membership of the board any woman worker, and therefore is undesirable.
.- I ask leave to amend my amendment by leaving out the word “ his “ before the word “ appointment “ and the word “ war “ before the word “ production “. If that be done, the amendment will then read -
Tile representative of the Commonwealth, shall be a person who has, for a period of at least twelve months before appointment, been engaged in production in a managerial capacity.
The Prime Minister has indicated that he will not accept the amendment, but I want to put it in order. The omission of the word “ his “ was suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I agree that the fact is not commonly understood that “his” includes “her”. There should be a woman on the board - it would be admirable if there were two women on it - because women have a great and compelling interest in what it does. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) with his customary candour, said, “ I want to retain Miss Cashman as the government representative, because she can express the point of view of women workers “. I have no doubt that she does it admirably, but it is because she expresses that view admirably that she cannot be regarded as a representative of the employing point of view. It really means that, by admission, the board consists of a chairman, one representative of the employers, two representatives of the employees, and one representative of women workers. That, whatever else may be said about it, is not a balanced board.
Amendment - by leave - amended accordingly.
Question put - ‘
That the sub-regulation proposed to be inserted (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in regulation 5, after sub-regulation (2.), the following sub-regulation be inserted: - “ (2a.) One of the representatives of employees shall be a woman.91
The Prime Minister, in his defence of the appointment of Miss Cashman to the board, said that it was roost desirable that, having regard to the purpose for which the board was appointed, there should be a woman representative on it. He also said that, if a vacancy were caused by Miss Cashman’s retirement, he would have no hesitation in considering sympathetically the proposal contained in the amendment that has just been defeated. If those two contingencies arose, the board might find itself without any woman representative at all, unless my amendment were adopted. I was surprised, as I am sure other honorable members were, to learn from the Prime Minister that one of the pre-eminent objectives of the board is to ensure the maintenance of the level of industrial standards for men.
– I did not say that. I said that the trade unions were afraid that their standards might be lowered.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Surely those standards can be protected, not only by the judge, whose prerogative overrides all other considerations, but also by the fact that one of the trade union representatives may be a man. As the industrial conditions which it is contemplated are to be reviewed by the board apply entirely to women, surely it is not too much to ask that one at least of the two trade union representatives shall be a woman. Indeed, it would not be asking too much to stipulate that both shall be of that sex.
– By the decision of the committee, one member of the board is now a woman, because the amendment of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) having been rejected, Miss Cashman remains a member of the board.
– Why say that? This bill sets up a board, but the board is not yet appointed.
– This measure preserves the existing board.
– Not necessarily.
– After the statement made to the House last night, I take it to be certain that Miss Cashman will remain a member of the board. Consequently there will be on the board a representative of women workers. The board will be concerned, not entirely with the point of view and interests of women, but also with those of male workers, and of trade unions, which are continuing permanent bodies of workers. Some unions, like the Amalgamated Engineering Union, are concerned mainly with male members, because practically all their members arc men. Others, like the Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia and the Clothing Trade Union, help to hold the balance between male and female workers. Each union has a continuous personality distinct from the persons who now compose it. It is the agent of its present members and a trustee for posterity - its future members. The object of the unions of clothing trade and printing trade workers is to carry on organizations in which there are both men and women, and to see that their interests are reconciled. The only result of the amendment would be to remove from the board Mr. Wallis, whose competence has been admitted by the right honorable member for Kooyong. The only result will be that the organizations composed almost exclusively of men will have a male representative on the board, whilst those composed of women and men will be forced to choose a woman representative. We are not considering the setting up in the first instance of a board with a tabula rasa, because names have already been written on the tablet, and we know that, if the bill be passed, the board will be constituted as at present. First an attempt was made to remove Miss Cashman from the board, not because any one had any personal ill will towards her or distrust of her, but because the Opposition did not want her there in the capacity in which she was appointed. Now that the committee has rejected the point of view of the right honorable member for Kooyong, a new proposal is brought forward, which, if carried, will have the effect of removing Mr. Wallis from the board. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) practically tells the trade unions which have men as well as women members that they must not choose a man to represent them. That might be defensible if a new board, of a different composition, had to be chosen, but it is not right now, because the unfair result of the amendment, if carried, would be to single out, for removal from the hoard, a man whose competence and fairness are unquestioned. The wisest course is either to reconstitute the board so as to enlarge the representation of the parties, or to leave its constitution alone. I believe that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and its component unions would strongly resent any suggestion of removing Mr. Wallis from the board.
– I cannot follow the argument of the honorable member for Rourke (Mr. Blackburn). The Women’s Employment Board, which is to render justice to women, protect their interests and standards, and ensure them a reasonable wage, is to be denied the right of having as one of its members a representative of women workers, other than the Government’s representative. The Government’s representative may not always be a woman. Miss ‘Cashman, who will no doubt be appointed to the reconstituted board, is subject to the uncertainties of human life, as we all are, and it is not impossible that she may meet with an accident. It may happen that, at some period, the board will be constituted without a woman representative unless this amendment is agreed to.’ We wish to make sure that there will always be a woman on the board, because it has to deal pre dominantly with women’s work. I cannot see why honorable members opposite should resist this amendment. Surely, it is not too much to ask that there shall always be one woman representative on a board of five members. Unless this proposal be accepted the board will bc unbalanced.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite are forgetting a cardinal principle that should apply in these circumstances. It is that representative bodies, including trade unions, should be unfettered in making their- nomination. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) knows that this principle was established abou) twenty years ago. For nearly two decades authorities which are given the statutory right to nominate representatives to various bodies have been permitted to exercise that right freely. It would not be proper for this Parliament to direct the trade unions in the selection of their representative. Honorable gentlemen opposite are surely well aware that the nominations of organizations to the International Labour Organization are not subject to government review. That is a good principle for us to observe. Mr. Wallis represents nearly 50,000 workers in the clothing trades. He is the federal secretary, as well as the secretary of the Victorian branch of the organization, and although 70 per cent, of the membership of the union consists of women, he was elected as the representative of the organization. It has nothing to do with us whether the employees nominate a man or a woman to represent them. Parliament should not dictate to them. If this amendment be carried, it will be tantamount to a direction to the Minister for Labour and National Service as to who shall represent his department.
– Surely, honorable members of this committee are entitled to say how a board of this description shall be constituted.
– The wish of the majority must rule. Let us consider the history of the establishment of this board. In the first place, a committee was appointed consisting of a chairman and one representative each of the employers and the employees. It was suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong that such a body was not well balanced and that it should include a representative of private employers. The Government accepted that principle. A board of five members was then constituted and it has operated successfully for four months. I have heard no complaints whatever about its work. This makes it all the more surprising that honorable members opposite should have felt obliged during the last two days to devote so much attention to the board. In my view, their whole procedure has been somewhat ridiculous. It would not be right for us to give a Minister power to choose the trade union representative. The workers should -choose their own representative. That fundamental principle has been observed for twenty years with satisfactory results.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) argued that the amendment should not be agreed to, first, because it would mean the removal of one of the members of the existing board, and, secondly, because the trade unions would resent any attempt to reduce the male representation on the board. The reasons advanced by the honorable member may satisfy him, but they certainly do not satisfy me. I consider them to be quite inadequate. In any case, the board has not yet been constituted under this measure. The wages and working conditions of many thousands of women will be considered by this board and for that reason we should ensure that there will always be a woman member on it. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) attempted to draw an analogy between appointments to the International Labour Organization and appointments to this board ; but the cases are not at all similar. The honorable gentleman knows that appointments to the International Labour Organization must be made in accordance with the constitution of that body. Representatives of the employers and employees must be nominated by the respective organizations. The honorable gentleman’s remarks in that connexion were not relevant to this issue. The Minister for Social
Services has declared that the trade unions would not tolerate dictation from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) or from this Parliament regarding the selection of their representative. We do not suggest the name of the woman whom they should select; but I contend that Parliament has a perfect right to stipulate that of the two representatives of the employees, one shall be a woman. Nothing could be more fitting than that. In the past, Parliament has been far too reluctant to give to women their rightful place in semi-governmental activities. I cannot imagine a more fitting opportunity for correcting that omission than allowing one woman to have a voice in determining the working conditions of fellow women in industry.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) stated that the sole concern of the Women’s Employment Board is- the determination of the wages and conditions of female employees in industry. I disagree with that statement. In my opinion, the sole concern of the board is the determination of the conditions upon which women shall enter industries in which only men were formerly employed. The board is concerned not only with the interests of women, but primarily with an industry in which only men were employed in the past. It will determine whether the conditions and remuneration are fair, not only to the women who enter the industry, but also to the men whom they temporarily replace. The board is concerned as much with the interests of men as with the interests of women. It will fix the remuneration for women who will do work that was previously performed only by men and for which male rates of pay were prescribed. The bill will continue the regulations governing the employment of women that were disallowed by the Senate recently. That means, I assume, that the machinery will not be interrupted. I do not expect that the Government will make new appointments and reconstitute the board.
– Does the honorable member suggest that women are entitled, to only 20 per cent, representation on the board?
– Women in the clothing trades are represented ‘by Mr. Wallis. Female trade unionists are represented by the person chosen by their unions. Mr. Wallis is a far more efficient representative of female workers in industry than any woman f*rom the clothing trades would be. A serious injury would be done to female trade unionists if he were excluded from the board. In my opinion, no female worker would he an efficient substitute for him. She certainly would not be superior to him, and I do not think that she would be his equal. It would be bad for the board if Mr. Wallis ceased to be a member. It would be bad if female workers were treated as antagonists of male workers. The problem of the board is to determine the conditions upon which it will be fair to admit women to industries that formerly employed only men.
Question put -
That the sub-regulation proposed to be inserted (Sir Frederick Stewart’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in regulation 0, sub-regulation (5.), after the words “reference to” the following words be inserted: - “ such factors as it thinks fit, and in particular to “.
It has been found with the experience of the operations of the board that it has taken the view that it has to look to the problem of productivity, as far as females and their relative efficiency is concerned, and there is very little else to which the board can look. It is clear, from the remarks of the chairman and some of the members of the board, that they consider that they have no discretion in dealing with the matters which come before them. I quote, first a passage from the remarks of the chairman, when dealing with the tanners’ case in Melbourne on the 13th August last, when, in reply to the solicitor for the Master Tanners Association, he said -
The words “ just and proper “ are intended obviously to cover a special case, a case where there is no male rate of pay. By the way, there is no such thing as justice or propriety in this jurisdiction. This court is not a court of law. It is a legislative body, so far as I can see.
In the latest judgment given by the board in the metal trades case on the 23rd September, Judge Foster said -
Economic consequences are inherent in the regulations themselves and must be presumed to have been contemplated by the framers of them. The board is given very little real discretion as has already been indicated, at all events as it has so far decided to interpret, them. It is obvious that the board has indicated that its real function with respect to wage fixation is to ascertain the relative efficiency and productivity of males and females - a sufficiently intricate problem - and to make decisions within the prescribed limits of 60 per cent, and 100 per cent.
It cannot be seriously contended that the so-called discretionary parages - “ just and proper” and “as far as practicable” (regulation 6, sub-regulation 5) in any way control the expressed intention made abundantly manifest throughout all the relevant clauses that the function of the board was to find the common level of male and female productivity and to fix wages accordingly. It does not require .the perspicuity of an expert of the “ dismal science “ to realize that this will have vast and important economic consequences which will by some be regarded as desirable and by others, disastrous, but if the regulations command, then the board must obey.
Mr. E. H. Johnstone, the employers’ representative on the board in the Australian paper manufacturers’ case, said -
If wc have unskilled and sheltered industries agreeing to more favorable wages and conditions of employment, we arc up against the problem of how are the skilled industries going to attract and retain their skilled labour, especially as in this matter where we have women and girls receiving £5 ls. to £5 8s. a week, whilst in a number of our skilled occupations wc have females, after four or more years of training receiving, under their respective awards, £3 to £3 8s. 6d. a week.
The effect of this policy is so serious that I deem it my duty, as a member of the board, to stress the point although I realize that the board is unable to correct it as the powers of the board are definite and limited. The discontent and dissatisfaction of the skilled female at the wage discrimination is so obvious that unless some special inducement is given to the skilled employee we will have the anomalous and tragic position that it pays to be in an unskilled occupation. In fact, in the metal trades it was found that there was little, if any, difficulty in securing process workers, whilst there was definitely a shortage of skilled operatives because of certain regulations prescribing higher rates of pay for unskilled labour.
I elaborated that point in detail last night, in my second-reading speech on the bill. As the board interprets its functions at present, it considers that it has insufficient discretion in considering the various matters that como before it. Whilst the effect of this amendment would be to leave productivity the dominant factor, it would be possible for the board to consider a variety of such factors when it thought proper.
.- The effect of the amendment would be to widen the discretion of the board and allow it to decide how it should exercise its discretion. I propose to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That regulation 12 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following regulation : - “ 12. No rate of payment to be made in accordance with a decision of the board in pursuance of regulation 6 or regulation 7 of these regulations shall apply in respect of any female prior to the date of making that decision, unless in the opinion of the board, there are special circumstances which make it desirable in the public interest that the payment should operate from any earlier date.”
The disallowed regulation relating to this subject reads -
If it were to operate, the effect would be that on an application coming before the board, and a decision being given, the board would make it retrospective to the 2nd March. It has been pointed out to the Opposition that in many establishments a decision is not reached for some months after the women in question have been employed. Nobody can determine in advance what the rate of pay should be. I have had brought to my notice the fact that in six factories which are making different articles for the Government for defence purposes, there would be, if the general standard rate applied, an accumulation of back pay amounting to over £40,000, all of which would represent an additional burden on the Treasury.
– We cannot violate a promise which was given.
– The effect of the amendment would not be to take away the right of the board to award the standard rate to women; but there are many establishments which are not doing war work. Counter-hands are being employed in retail establishments. I am not in a position to argue the point dogmatically with the honorable gentleman. The effect of the amendment would be, not to tie the hands of the board in any way, but merely to remove a mandatory provision and permit the board to exercise discretion in determining from what point of time its decisions should operate. I understand that provision along those lines has already been made to cover the position) in “Western Australia. Discussions that I have had with the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Prime Minister suggest that the Government could apply practically the same formula in this instance, and thus meet the point that I have raised. The reason for the language I have used in my proposed regulation is that the rather involved legal language in the present regulation is a little more difficult for the committee to understand.
– Broadly speaking, the Government accepts the general principle set out in the proposed regulation; but, if it were adopted, it would need to be re-drafted’ for legal purposes. I have had an examination made of the matter, and have consulted the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will accept my draft, I believe that his desire will be met, and at the same time the safeguards that the department consider are proper will be retained.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner) [10.47J- I have seen the draft that the right honorable gentleman has had prepared. As I mentioned earlier, it covers in substance the point that I1 have raised. My sole pui-pose in proceeding with the proposal in the form in which I had drafted it was to reveal its object more clearly to the committee. I accept the offer of the right honorable gentleman.
– When the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is examining this matter, I should like him to bear in mind that it is necessary to understand the background and the genesis of these operations. When women were induced to take the place of men, and the agreement of the engineers was obtained, the work was commenced without wages having been fixed. The promise was made that a board would be appointed to deal with the matter, and that whatever its decisions might be the wages fixed would be made retrospective to the 2nd March. I expect that those cases have been completed. If so, why interfere with the date?
– There are other cases that have since arisen.
– The 2nd March would not apply to those.
– It would.
– They have not yet been working.
– I am referring to persons who have been working.
– Those who were not covered, but who were promised that their wages would be made retrospective to the 2nd March, will have to receive what is due to them under that promise. So long as the position in that respect is safeguarded, I shall be satisfied.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That regulation 12 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following regulation : -
Any rate of payment to be made in accordance with a decision, order or interpretation given or made by the Board in pursuance of these regulations shall apply in respect of the work done by any female as on and from such date (whether before or after the commencement of these regulations, but, where that rate is less than the rate payable immediately prior to the date of the decision, order or interpretation, not earlier than thai date, and in any event, not earlier than the second day of March, 1942) as the Board specifies, but any payment made to that female in respect of the work prior to the date of the decision, order or interpretation of the Board shall be set off against any payment to bc made under the decision, order or interpretation.
– I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to indicate why industrial problems in Western Australia are to be referred to the Industrial Court of that State?
– Because of the transportation problem.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Is the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) able to state on what day next week the House will re-assemble? Owing to the infrequency of the travelling facilities afforded between Tasmania and the mainland, and the difficulty of securing accommodation, it is imperative that Tasmanian members should know.
– in reply - The House will reassemble onWednesday of next week. An earlier resumption would cause great inconvenience to a number of honorable gentlemen, in both this House and the Senate, whose hopes have not been realized.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund Act - Annual Report by the Trustees, for year 1941-42 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey and P. S. Watson Bequests, and the Commonwealth Public Service Patriotic Fund, South Australia).
Norfolk Island - Report for year 1940-41.
Papua - Report for year 1940-41.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many passports have been issued in the past twelve months to women enabling them to leave Australia, and for what reasons ?
– The Minister for the Interior states that the information will be obtained, and furnished to the honorable member at a later date.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the cost of the visit abroad of each of the following Ministers during the life-time of this Parliament : - The then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt)?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In addition to the expenses of the Ministers, the above figures include expenses associated with staff. Under present conditionssome accounts are not received in Australia for appreciable periods. Particulars of expenditure which have been received by cable advice only are included, but it is not anticipated that any appreciable amendment will be necessary when the final accounts are available.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What machinery exists for appeal against call-up by the Allied Works Council for service in the Civil Constructional Corps?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Machinery exists for the determination of appeals against enrolment in the Allied Works Council’s Civil Constructional Corps on each of the following grounds: -
that the person called up is already employed on a protected undertaking;
that the person called up is medically unfit; and
that service in the Civil Constructional Corps would cause excessive hardship.
Appeals on the ground (a) are determined by an employment officer who is in attendance at the Civil Constructional Corps enrolment bureau. Appeals on ground (b) are dealt with by a panel of doctors provided at each enrolment bureau. Appeals on ground (c) are dealt with by chief hardship officers, who are retired police magistrates now attached to the State staffs of the Allied Works Council.
Sleeping Accommodation in Trains.
Mr.George Lawson. - On the 22nd September, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) asked the following question, without notice: -
In view of the reported decision to discontinue the provision of sleeping accommodation on trains between Adelaide and Melbourne, will the Ministerfor Transport consider the position of passengers from Western Australia, seeing that they have already travelled so far before reaching Adelaide?
I have ascertained that the action in question was taken by the Premier of South Australia, following consultation with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the serious coal position in South Australia. The relevant regulations are contained in Statutory Rules No. 404 of 1942, which empower the Premiers ofStates to take such measures as are deemed necessary to conserve coal for the efficient prosecution of the war. The matter has been taken up with the South Australian authorities, who are not prepared to agree to the provision of sleeping cars on the overland express in any circumstances. The matter is one which has not been dealt with in terms of National Security (Land Transport) Regulations, therefore I have no jurisdiction in the matter.
l asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
y. - On the 30th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions, upon notice : -
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now furnished the following answers : - 1. (a) Fourteen million tons per annum, includes approximately 3,000,000 tons of gur - a low-grade sugar produced in India for use of the native population. (b) (1) India, (2) Cuba, (3) Netherlands East Indies, (4) Brazil, (5) Philippine Islands, (6) Puerto Rico, (7) Hawaiian Islands, (8) Australia, (9) British West Indies, (10) South Africa, (11) United States of America, (12) Dominican Republic, (13) Mauritius. 2. (a) Two million five hundred thousand tons per annum.(b) (1) United States of America, (2) Russia (other than Ukraine), (3) Great Britain, (4) Canada, (5) Eire. 3. (a) Four million tons per annum, includes approximately 2,500,000 tons previously produced in the Netherlands East Indies and Philippine Islands at present occupied by Japan. (b) Japan. 4. (a) Eight million tons per annum. (b) (1) Germany, (2) Russia (Ukraine), (3) Poland, (4) France, (5) Czechoslovakia, (6) Italy, (7) Holland, (8) Denmark. (Note. - Figures are approximate only.)
Japanese Attacks on Darwin : Report of Royal Commission.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does he intend to publish, in whole or in part, the report of the royal commission, constituted of His Honour Mr. Justice Lowe, upon the Japanese attacks on Darwin?
n. - The reports of Mr. Justice Lowe on the air raids on Darwin were of a highly confidential nature. The Commissioner himself made special reference to this aspect. As the reports have been considered by the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council, and as the corrective action taken by Commonwealth departments concerned has been endorsed by those bodies, it is not proposed to further release any information contained in the reports.
t asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
Jb he vet in a position to inform the House of the names of representatives of the Central Wool Committee, the Australian Wool Growers Council, and the Federal Council of the Graziers Association, who he said were consulted by Professor Clunies Ross and Mr. D. A. Gill during their investigations of the pastoral industry!
– In my letter, of the 16th September, 1942, to the honorable member, I fully advised him regarding the various points he had raised. I explained that, in reply to a question without notice on 9th September, I had stated that Dr. Boss and’ Mr. QUI had consulted representatives of the Central Wool Committee and other bodies, whereas I should have said members of those bodies. I also pointed out in my letter that, although these discussions were held with members of the various organizations, as they were not consulted officially but as persons with specialized knowledge of wool industry problems, there might be some embarrassment to the ‘individuals if specific details of the discussions were made public.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19421001_reps_16_172/>.